Spiffy "New" Site
Check out the newly-redesigned Comic
: It's a site I occasionally visited in the past,
mainly for a couple of their columnists (including Rich Watson, who
doesn't appear to have made the move to the site's new look, but his "A
View From The Cheap Seats
" column can still be found at the
horrible-to-navigate, extremely ad-heavy UGO (never has an acronym been
more appropriate), as well as several other sites
apparently). CWN suffered from sporadic updates (something I can
certainly sympathize with), but from the looks of their line-up of
features and columnists (including upcoming "name" contributors Richard
Starkings and Larry Young) they should have plenty of material to keep
things fresh. And the proposal to offer a "60/40 I/SP
[Independent/Small Press] focus" sounds smart: As CWN's Editor-in-Chief
says, "the best chance you have of getting them
[mainstream readers] to look at the Indy titles they might not
otherwise seek out" is by offering some familiar content to lure
fanboys in. I'll be curious to see if CWN can maintain that
balance, as well as what they consider "Independent/Small Press."
(There's a fun classification to argue over.)
Best of luck to CWN on the revamp, congrats on the corporate
sponsorship (as part of Comicraft
network), and a
big thanks to Ed
for the heads-up!
And The Expert Hallway Navigation Is Only Enhanced By The Skimpy Hospital Gown Outfit
Yeah, it looks pretty boring so far, but soon
Amber will seduce the lab
assistant, escape her bonds, and navigate expertly through the BioGenCo
complex. Then you're in for a treat, my friend: Fully
painted scenes of expert corridor navigation
. I just worry
because in the Newsarama interview creator Adam Shaw reveals that
[SPOILER ALERT!] the BioGenCo complex burns down during Amber's
escape. Hopefully Shaw will still be able to figure out creative
ways to place Amber in more hallways, corridors, and passageways, even
with the loss of the series' distinctive BioGenCo locale.
Now This Is What I Call Loose Continuity
Considering all of the (unintentional) humor my 2003 Marvel desk
calendar has given me throughout the year, it seemed fitting that this
was the final entry:
Happy New Year, Everyone!
Broken Frontier's Year-End Interviews
Broken Frontier has a number of year-end wrap-up interviews with reps
from various comic companies, including:
Interestingly, when asked which trends this year were important for the
industry overall, several interviewees answered "Manga," including CG's
Personally, I loved walking into bookstores and
seeing so many young readers looking through shelves and shelves of
manga. This is what's going to bring in the next generation of readers
and (hopefully) feed them into the direct market like the newsstand
racks used to.
I don't know if the success of manga in bookstores will translate into
much business for the Direct Market, but it's nice to see other
companies acknowledging the gains manga made this year.
Getting Back In The Swing Of Things
After nearly a week offline, there's so much to catch up on. I'm
sure I've missed a lot, but here's what caught my eye while wandering
around the web today:
covers Tokyopop's success with romance comics, a genre abandoned long
ago by American comic publishers. Tokyopop editor Mark Paniccia
has a great quote that gets at the heart of why I'm so enthusiastic and
optimistic about manga:
"The success of comics movies such as
and Blade have
helped break down some of the barriers of American comics--and I'm
about that--but the content of manga is more appealing to the masses,
and I'm much more happy that it's bringing more people back into
I'm often surprised by the hostility certain segments of comic fandom
have for manga. To me, it's great that new readers are learning
to to appreciate the charms of sequential art.
Later in the piece, Paniccia hits on another reason manga appeals to me:
As Tokyopop’s mature-readers romance titles
with both male and female readers, the publisher is taking another step
that’s counter to mainstream American comics, but in line with
independents, that is, cultivate readers for creators, specifically,
not for properties.
Finally, Franklin Harris gets in a great comment following the article:
"It's largely that way in Japan,” Paniccia said. “Manga is mainly
author/creator driven and the properties are finite. Kind of like film,
I suppose. People may go to see movies because they're interested in
the story, but in many cases, they are drawn to the actors or
directors. A good manga is like a good movie. It has a beginning, a
middle and an end...and a sequel, sometimes. But American comics are
like TV where they have to keep it going and going. After a while, it's
going to get stale"
Insert tiresome complaints from
about how manga sucks and how it doesn't sell (in the direct market)
Apparently Newsarama posters were baffled by having their usual refrain
laid bare so early on in the game: So far (as of early 12/30, at
comments thread has remained
surprisingly positive, which is all the more surprising when you
consider (1) it's a manga thread (2) on Newsarama.
There. I've done your work for you.
- Ex-CrossGen staffer Butch
Guice is working on a new project that looks interesting: A
two-book series called Olympus from Humanoids.
There isn't much
in the way of details--no info on format, price, or release date--but
I'm a sucker for Greek myths, and the art from Guice looks great.
I'm not so sure about Geoff Johns, though. I mainly associate him
with the declining quality of Avengers and JSA
this year. But
this is something I'll probably check out in more detail once it comes
- Lord help me, but based on the
Pulse's interview with Dan Slott, I'm actually interested in the
new She-Hulk book. The idea of a fun book set in
Universe dealing with "the bizarre field of Superhuman Law" sounds
promising, especially since it won't rely on breaking the fourth wall
for its humor. (That device quickly became extremely grating in
the old She-Hulk series.) And the art from Juan
interesting--much softer and quieter than I would expect from a Marvel
series. Only problem is $3 is much more than I'm willing to spend
for a Marvel comic, so it looks like it's another case of waiting for
the trade. Luckily, Marvel seems to collect just about everything
they publish. And if the series bombs and it's never collected,
I'm sure I'll be able to find the comics in bargain bins.
- Finally, I've long maintained that Rob Liefeld is the patron
Grotesque Anatomy, so it's nice to see that he's getting the
recognition he so richly deserves. Yes, Liefeld is the honored
recipient of the prestigious Quasimodo Award
for The Worst Understanding of Human Anatomy from Ninth Art's
Committee for the Prevention of Sequential Mediocrity.
Congratulations, Mr. Liefeld: All that hardly working finally
I'm still hoping to put together a "2003 in Review" entry, but it's
looking more and more as though that won't happen until 2004. So
just in case I don't blog until then, Happy New Year, Everyone!
Season's Greetings from All of Us Here at Grotesque Anatomy
Before I forget, I'll probably be taking a break from blogging for the
rest of the year. I have work off, and many family obligations
throughout the holidays, so I doubt I'll have much time to blog
anything. I do hope to have a "Look Back at Comics in 2003"
wrap-up at some point, but no promises or guarantees.
And if I can get sappy for just a moment, I'd like to thank everyone
who read this blog over the past few months. I wasn't sure I'd
stick with it for long, as I have a tendency to get really gung-ho
about something new but then lose all interest once the novelty
fades. Instead, I've been enjoying blogging about comics more and
more. I don't know if that enthusiasm always shows--I know I
lapse into snarkiness a little too often, and I'm not immune to the
malaise that makes its way through the comics community every few
months--but writing and thinking and reacting about comics has really
re-energized my interest in comics, both as a hobby and as an art
form. So thanks to everyone who participated in this and the many
other fine blogs out there: I know this is coming dangerously
close to schmaltzy "Team Comics" sentimentality, but you've all made me
believe that we really can
Especially if we all buy more manga.
Happy holidays, everyone!
Stupid Rings Critics, Part 4:
I've been searching
for a way to undermine whatever critical
credibility I might have, and I think I've finally hit upon it.
I did not like The Retun of the King
Now before we get into it, there are a couple things you should
know. First and foremost, I did not do the required homework for
this movie. Yes, I did see the first two movies when they
originally came out (and even enjoyed the second one, more or less),
I had not watched them since then. Which means I probably forgot
a lot of details that were important for King
it means that
I didn't really see all
of the first two films, since I never
the extended versions.
Even more damning, I've never read the
books. I think I tried a couple times in high school, but I could
just never get into the stories. I know this is going to
discredit my opinion of the movie in most people's eyes, but shouldn't
the film--even if it is the third part of a trilogy--be able to stand
on its own right to a certain degree? And if we're considering
how well ROTK
worked as a movie, I really don't think
it's germane to point out that the movie was faithful to the
That's like constantly citing the Bible during an argument about the
existence of God with a nonbeliever.
I should also point out that this is by no means intended as a serious,
considered rebuttal to the legion of glowing reviews singing the
praises of this film. It can't be; I was so bored by the film
mind began to wander somewhere during the first hour. So I'll
probably make all kinds of mistakes in this rant--like mixing up Eowyn
and Arwen and Arwyn
or whoever the fuck it was--that will irritate true Tolkien fans.
I'm not claiming that I'm right and you're wrong--at least not on the
So what didn't I like? What can I remember? It's probably
helpful to start with Sean
: It might help jog my memory, and I'm sure I
hated everything on it.
- The charge of the Mumakil. If I'm remembering
correctly, this was the scene with the elephant thingies. The bit
with Legolas mounting the elephant was so obviously CGI I kept having
flashbacks to the scene of Anakin trying to ride the space-hippo in Attack
of the Clones. Legolas surfing down the trunk of the
elephant was also a bit too "Xtreme sports" for me.
- The lighting of the beacons. Wow! Those
sentries sure are alert, lighting each beacon within seconds of the
previous one being lit! Nice to see that no one was on the john
or just not paying attention after years of the beacon system going
- The Smeagol & Deagol flashback. You know what
would be nice? Some character names that were actually
distinguishable for non-LOTR purists. Smeagol, Deagol, &
Beagol: It's either a really bad law firm or a new Disney comic
featuring Pluto's mischievous nephews.
- Grond, the battering ram. What purpose did the
flames shooting out of its mouth serve? It looked like a cheesy
prop at a heavy metal concert. I guess it let those being invaded
know that it was TIME TO ROCK.
- Shelob. This is what passes for a deadly creature in
the LOTRverse? An enormous spider that can't even kill one fat
Hobbit? I kept hoping it would do something, like, you
know, maybe pounce on
Samwise. Or at least move quickly instead of lumbering
around. Christ, Sam had time to roll around, climb about, and
maybe make himself lunch while Shelob was slowly crawling around.
Poor spider. It must have been elderly or something. And
those nasty trolls weren't taking proper care of her.
- The Olog-Hai. The what now? I think Sean is
just testing me here. This didn't actually appear in the movie,
- The cries of the Nazgul. You mean the screeches of
those dragon-creatures? I suppose I have to give credit on this
one: It was a pretty smart move to work something like this into
the movie to wake the audience up every now and then.
- Minas Morgul & the Winding Stair. Or as it was
known in another, better movie, the Cliffs of Insanity.
- The Orcs. The LOTR site
tells me that "[a]n Orc's only joy is in the pain of others" and their
"blood is black in color and they are cannibals." Now, is this
true, or is this just more anti-orc propaganda put together by that
fascistic Fellowship? (It's easy to be sure of the Justness
of War when the enemy is so thoroughly dehumanized, but I truly
doubt any meaningful parallels can be drawn between events in the
pretend Tolkienverse and our real world.)
- Faramir's charge. Was this the part where scenes of
soldiers charging were intercut with scenes of a Hobbit doing karaoke
while the crazy king said, "Screw utensils! I'm the frickin'
king!"? And then the king bit into a tomato or something and it
spurted all over his mouth and hands, which was, like, all symbolic and
stuff, because the soldiers he had sent out to fight were all dying,
with their blood and guts spurting all over the king's (metaphorical)
mouth and hands? Yeah, that was really deep. And
subtle. And I think slo-mo may have been involved, because there
just wasn't enough slo-mo used in this movie to signal that really deep
and portentous things were occurring.
- The absence of "The Scouring of the Shire." I don't
know what it is, but if it shaved time off the movie length, I'm all
for its absence as well.
- The cello music at the end. I'd comment, but Sean
didn't clarify which ending he was referring to. By my count,
there were at least five endings. Eager to stretch my legs (and
relieve my bladder) I probably missed the true ending after
all the Renaissance Festival portraits were over.
Anything else? OK, since you asked:
- So sloooooooowzzzzzzzzzz. I'm pretty sure the
first hour and most of the ending were filmed in slow motion. I'm
not sure, though. I'd ask to see the replay, but I'm scared by
the thought of what watching slo-mo recaps of slo-mo scenes might do to
the very fabric of space-time.
- The arbitrariness of magic. "Wow, what a great magic
staff you have, Gandalf. Yeah, it was really cool how it was able
to repel those dragon-things when the soldiers were riding toward
the castle. Do you think that you could use your staff to do that
again now that the dragon-things have returned and are FUCKING EATING
AND GRABBING AND DROPPING ALL OF OUR MEN???"
- The brilliant strategic mind of Gandalf. Somewhat
related to the above point, but why didn't Gandalf use those giant
eagles to take the ring and simply drop it in the volcano? I
mean, half the time Gandalf is going on about how he sent Frodo to his
doom, so it sounds like even Mr. High-and-Mighty Wizard realizes it
wasn't the best plan to send a small creature over millions of miles on
foot when he had access to a fucking giant flying eagle.
- The intermittency of pure, relentless evil. "Oh,
don't worry, Mr. Frodo. The ring's not lost. I've been
holding on to it all this time. What's that? Oh yeah,
right: OOOO...THE RING IS SO EVIL...I'M ACTING ALL STONED NOW."
- The cheesiness of emotion. "I'm sorry, human lady, I
can't love you, for I hardly know you. Plus, I totally love this
hot elf chick who I hardly know."
- The Seventies Sitcom and/or Porn ending. "Hey look,
the gang's all here. Time to laugh without sound! Now
everyone climb into bed with Frodo here. Or just watch if that's
more your thing. And you know what would really help?
If the whole scene were in slo-mo and too brightly lit. That'd be
There was probably more than annoyed me, but if I go on any longer, I
run the risk of overstaying my welcome just as ROTK
did. And while it feels good to get all of this off my chest, I
really don't want to become the pariah of the comics blogosphere, at
least not over an overrated fantasy flick.
Say, how about that Mike San Giacomo guy and his outrageous
opinions about the new Catwoman artistic team
? What's up with
that??? [he asked, not at all trying to change the subject or
Tokyopop: Plans For World Domination Proceeding Apace
Very interesting interview with Kristien Brada-Thompson, TOKYOPOP's
Marcom [Marketing Communications] Manager, over at The
. Some choice quotes:
"In the beginning, it was a challenge convincing TOKYOPOP's
investment partners that manga could sell and actually profit in the
United States ... and that people would not only be willing to read
authentic manga (right to left), but would actually prefer it. When
TOKYOPOP initially launched its line of nine 100% Authentic Manga
titles, many of our competitors shook their heads, some held their
breath and others watched quietly expecting failure. Today this format
and price point are the industry standard."
Hard to believe that there was a time when people doubted the appeal of
manga, but I do remember Studio Proteus' Toren Smith being fairly
negative about the prospects for unflipped manga in the American market.
"TOKYOPOP is now the leading U.S. publisher of
manga," Brada-Thompson continued. "In many ways, I believe we have
provided the fuel to ignite this explosion, but there are several key
factors to consider: 1) manga has achieved a greater penetration into
the book trade, 2) there is a much larger public awareness of manga and
anime overall, and 3) manga appeals to a male and female demographic,
thereby expanding its reach beyond that of typical American superhero
Testify! Can I get an "ah
"Here and there, we'll publish a title that didn't
get the predicted response from fans," Brada-Thompson admitted. "We're
not always sure why this happens, but when it does, we have to try to
learn from it and improve, whether that be in our choice of titles,
their marketing strategies or overall production quality."
Mind...reeling. A comic book company taking time to learn
from its ventures, rather than just throwing stuff against the wall and
seeing what sticks? Or, worse, giving up and resorting to the
same old tired concepts?
"I believe its continued penetration into the book
trade, mass market and other new avenues of distribution, along with a
wealth of great stories published in an affordable, convenient format
will contribute to even more manga growth in 2004," said Brada-Thompson.
But what about the Direct Market? Why didn't she
specifically mention the Direct Market? Oh yeah, right.
Much more in the link, including a reference to Tokyopop's revenue
doubling every year since its inception. Very much worth a
Most Coincidental Timing Ever
are up. Graeme
has already beat me to mocking the project that most needed mocking,
but this is pretty cringe-inducing as well:
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #54 & 55
Brian Michael Bendis
Covers & Pencils by Mark Bagley
The Movie” Parts 1 & 2 (of 5)
A major movie studio is making an unauthorized summer blockbuster about
Spider-Man, and the Ultimate wall-crawler swings by the set to give the
producers a piece of his mind. But someone else is even hotter about
being in the film than Spidey — Doctor Octopus — who just may shut the
production down if he doesn’t get final edit!
- New story
arc! Two issues!!
director Sam Raimi, actor Toby Maguire & producer Avi Arad!
Marvel: We will attempt to ride the coattails of mainstream
celebrities in any way we can. Jesus. Just when I thought
Marvel couldn't get any more desperate with its endless Spider-Man
-related tie-ins for the Spider-books. Let's hope the
story is as classy and entertaining as that backup feature
"guest-starring" Jay Leno.
Worst. Manga. Ever.
So they finally did it, those crazy bastards. Gutsoon actually
went through with their plans to collect the atrocious series Bomber
into trade paperback. Damn them! Damn them all to
links to a negative review over on the AnimeOnDVD
, but that review is much too generous. Although the
reviewer gives Bomber Girl
generous), he slips from time to time and writes things like "it's
pretty funny to see the characters Niwano thinks up" and "if you are
into cheesy corny violence this might be entertaining."
This is incorrect. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about Bomber
in any way, shape, or form. As Paul
once said, "I can prove it with graphs." But since
making graphs would take time, I'll take the easy way out and excerpt
some old reviews of mine. Here are my thoughts on the first
of Bomber Girl
as serialized in Raijin Comics
BOMBER GIRL: The weakest of the four stories, both
in terms of story and art. Storywise, it's little more than a flimsy
vehicle for the gratuitous depictions of sex (or at least T&A) and
violence. In a sense, then, the creator can be complimented for
utilizing his story and art to serve each other so seamlessly.
BOMBER GIRL: I wouldn't have though it was possible, but this
installment was even worse than last issue's chapter. The art is even
cruder and more amateurish than before. Look at the perspective (or
lack thereof) on the car in panel 51: It looks like a drawing a
grade-schooler with no formal art training would make in the margins of
his math notebook while bored. I'm sure Niwano Makoto, the creator of
BOMBER GIRL, is earnest in his affection for this series, but I don't
want to pay for material of such unprofessional quality. According to
the letter column in the first issue, the ongoing line-up of RAIJIN
COMICS will be determined by reader votes, with unpopular titles
dropped from the magazine. There's a questionnaire on the last page
that directs readers to the Raijin Comics website to register their opinions,
but so far the survey is still directed at the preview zero issue. I'll
keep checking back to cast my vote against BOMBER GIRL.
BOMBER GIRL: I was going to go through and count all the panty
shots once again, but even that seemed unamusing and unappealing at
this point. Instead, I decided to pick out some of my favorite bad
lines from this chapter. "How do you spell 'sex'?"; "But feel free to
show us your panties!"; "My customized tonfa, 'Yashamaru.' are
invincible, cuz all I need to do is beat the crap out of people with
them." Yes, Emi, but I still doubt that
even your customized tonfa could inflict as much pain as your series
BOMBER GIRL: Dear God this is bad. This issue Niwano attempts
to engage in a bit of self-parody, introducing a character who makes
fun of Emi's "big boobs" and breaks the
fourth wall by asking things like, "Is the main character allowed to
say that?" Self-aware meta-humor is tricky to pull off, and it's doomed
to fail when your satirical character is just as objectionable as the
character she's supposed to poke fun at. And on a completely nitpicky
note: It's annoying when the "secret weapon" Emi
was supposedly carrying all along was *clearly* not visible throughout
the story. What a cheat, not to mention it was yet another excuse for a
gratuitous shot of Emi's breasts. The plot
device offends on so many levels...
was so bad it affected my overall enjoyment of
anthology, as evident in the closing of my
review for issue #4:
Overall: Strong chapters of MOUFLON, SLAM DUNK, and BAKI
get this issue off to a good start, but it's all marred in the end by
an especially bad chapter of BOMBER GIRL. Like a bad dessert that ruins
your memory of a good meal, BOMBER GIRL once again leaves a bad taste
in my mouth. Setting that series aside, I'd still recommend this book,
but I can't wait until BOMBER GIRL is replaced by something else that
matches the quality of the other serials in this anthology.
Normally I'd feel guilty for reusing old material to fill up a blog
entry, but recycling feels appropriate for trash like Bomber Girl
And if my warnings prevent even one person from purchasing this waste
of paper, then it will have been worth it. Please, please, please
avoid this manga, unless you're purposely looking for something bad, like for a manga drinking game or something. If so, make
sure to buy lots of alcohol: You'll need it blot out the pain
once you start reading.
Manga Reviews for the Initiated
Here's a blogger who's reviewing manga from a more informed perspective
than mine: Mitch
H. reviews Dark Horse's Hellsing
. (And in a
similar-but-reversed vein of complaint, I note that Mitch's review
isn't very useful for me, a manga newbie, since it doesn't tell me much
about the manga itself. But the review may be useful for fans
wondering how the manga compares to the anime.)
EDITED TO ADD:
Mitch has since upgraded his review to
include more background information on the Hellsing
series. (I'd like to clarify that I wasn't trying to press Mitch
to flesh out his review. I was just trying to make a point about
different reviews being useful for different audiences. But I do
appreciate his adding more info about the series -- it definitely makes
me more interested in checking out the manga now. It also makes
me realize how often I "review" something without recapping the basic
plot for readers who might be unfamiliar with the work.)
Also, Jughead's Goofy Hat To Be Replaced With Big Spiky Hair
of news that Archie Comics' Sabrina
will be getting a
"manga makeover" thanks to Rising Stars of Manga winner Tania del Rio,
summary was my favorite:
Archie's Sabrina to get big eyes, big teardrops, and
show more panties
for his "Archie jumps on a bandwagon possibly for the
first time ever" heading.)
In Defense of Laziness
I started a thread
over on the Dark Horse manga boards
to pimp my
and received a reply that got me thinking. In
response to my negative Berserk
review, a poster named Shinji Mimura
How much of the story have you read? Just the first volume?
thought your review on Berserk sounded pretty ignorant. Berserk brings
up great philosophical ideas and is a great story in general. It
doesn't really pick up until the Golden Age arc, though.
I answered that I had only read the first book, admitting that I was
ignorant of what happens in later volumes. (25 volumes have been
published so far in Japan, with no end in sight. For more
information about the Japanese manga, see this site
But the comment made me wonder if I should have done more research on
the manga to be fair. After all, I knew it was a reprint, and I
knew it was a popular series in Japan with multiple volumes. It
wasn't a brand new series where I had no information about forthcoming
storylines. I'm sure if I wanted to learn more about the
series--such as whether any depth to Guts' character is ever
revealed--I could have found that information online.
I think part of the reason I don't track down such information is
because I don't want to spoil the enjoyment of reading the work
itself. When I finally got around to reading Akira
this year, I was hooked after the first book. I ordered the next
couple volumes online, which meant that I had to wait for the books to
arrive. And because I always choose the Super Saver shipping, it
was going to be awhile. Now since the series was completed long
ago, I could have looked online to find out what happened next.
But I didn't want to ruin the thrill of discovering the details as I
actually read the story. I would worry that knowing what was
going to happen in advance would lessen the impact of having it all
unfold before me. After all, look what happened when I got
impatient with the delay between the second and third volumes of the Battle
manga: I read the novel, so by the time the next
edition of the manga came out, the events were no longer as shocking or
surprising as they might have been otherwise.
I suppose in the case of Berserk
I could have looked up
the info before writing my review, since I'm not planning to read any
future volumes. But even there too much knowledge could have
colored my reaction to the work, and therefore altered my review.
I generally try to avoid reading others' takes on things I'm
planning to review for much the same reason: I don't want their perspectives to
influence my own opinion too strongly, especially if I don't "get"
something right away. I'd rather put out my reactions, expose my
ignorance, and have others fill me in on where I'm wrong. (Which
has been working rather well so far: Readers in the DHMB thread
have informed me of some of the deeper issues Berserk
deals with. And in the comments thread of my original reviews,
Christopher Butcher has helpfully pointed out a
where my analysis of Buddha
wasn't as close or careful as
it should have been. When something is contrary to my
expectations, I always forget to consider that the whole point may have
been to challenge my assumptions. Thanks to Christopher and
others for taking the time to help me refine my thoughts.)
This is probably a good point to remind readers that I'm not an expert
on manga. I've only started reading it recently, and I've only
read a handful of titles so far. As I said when I was reviewing
for Anime News Network
I'm new to this particular section of the sequential arts, so please
forgive me when I make errors and omissions that seem obvious to a
long-time otaku. And just like a typical, stubborn-headed male
begging for forgiveness, I'd also like to acknowledge that I'm not
likely to change any time soon--or at least not very quickly.
This will probably sound as though I'm wearing my ignorance like a
badge of honor, but I think my approach to reviewing manga will remain
largely untouched: I'll continue with the same "lifelong reader
of American comics gradually exploring manga" routine. (I should check
with Bill Sherman
who used this schtick first.)
Why do I like this approach? Well, for one thing, I think it can
be useful, since there are probably other readers out there who find
themselves in a similar boat. I'm sure there are other places to go
if you want manga reviews from fans who know everything about the
entire Japanese run of a title. But as Dave Lartigue
and others have indicated to me, there aren't many sites that review
manga from the perspective of someone generally familiar with comics
but still pretty green when it comes to manga. I know I can't be
all things to all people, but I'll at least try to be honest about who
I'm trying to be. (I'll also try to work in second opinions to
offer perspectives other than my own; I tried to do that in earlier
reviews but I forgot to do it in my negative reviews (aside from the
reference to Bill Sherman's Ring
review and the other Buddha
And of course the other reason is that I'm lazy.
Moore Mainstream Coverage
has an article on
Alan Moore titled "Please, Sir, I Want Some Moore" with the sub-heading
"The lazy British genius who transformed American comics." I was
intrigued by this line in the article: "His work is alternately
groundbreaking and painfully lazy; he often coasts on his cleverness
for a quick paycheck." I'm trying to think of which works Moore
did simply for the paycheck. The Image and Awesome stuff?
Also, can one coast on cleverness? "Gosh durn it! I'm just
so sick of this Moore fellow's cleverness. I wish he'd do
something different and dumb it down for once!"
Dang it, Dirk
beat me to the story about Sabrina's "manga makeover."
I had a post ready last night (the story appeared earlier on Comics
) but my home PC crashed before I could publish it.
Dirk got in one of the cracks I wanted to make (about Archie Comics
craving a slice
of that manga magic), but I was also wondering if the audience for
Sabrina will be as resistant to changes in art style as superhero fans
often are. My guess would be that Sabrina's readers (who I'm
assuming are mainly young girls) might actually like the new look,
since it would combine two of their favorite things (Sabrina and
shoujo) in one package.
In any event, it's a shrewd (or is that cynical?) move on Archie's
part, and I'm happy to see that Tokyopop
's Rising Stars
contest is leading to work in the American comic book
industry for winners such as Tania
Video Games and Comics: Underdogs Unite!
The latest issue of Game
(#129, Jan. 2004) has a fair amount of comic
coverage, including an "exclusive first look" at the 100 Bullets
video game. Other comic-related mentions include:
- A look at the Red Star video game in the news
section (apparently it's going to be a "brawler" fighting game?)
- A paragraph about Activision hiring Stan Lee as a "development
consultant" for their Marvel-based games. Interestingly, they
bring up Stan's legal troubles with Marvel, saying "we're glad to see
Stan (who famously feuded with Marvel over money he felt he was owed
for the blockbuster Spider-Man movie) getting paid for
the franchises he helped create." Even if he couldn't get paid by
the company he helped create the characters for, huh? Ouch.
- A mention of a possible Iron Man game, accompanied
by an image from the cover of Iron Man #64
Comic-related games also placed strongly on a top ten list. Unfortunately it's
a list of the ten worst games of 2003:
- Justice League: Chronicles ("Not since the Wonder
Twins has something brought so much shame to DC's mightiest heroes")
- Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis ("Who's a cooler comic
character than Aquaman? Everyone.")
- Batman: Dark Tomorrow, which nabs the #1 spot
("We're not exactly sure what happened during the development of this
title, but we have a sneaking suspicion that Joel Schumacher was
But of course the biggest comic-related story in GI
the 100 Bullets
feature article. It spans six pages
and features plenty of art from the comic in addition to screen shots
from the forthcoming game. And there's a sidebar on the comic
itself encouraging readers to check out the series. One of the
reasons listed was news to me: According to GI
is used in three American Literature classs at
Interesting note: Twice in the magazine reference is made to the
lack of respect faced by both comic book readers and gamers, first in
the table of contents listing for the 100 Bullets
and later at the close of the 100 Bullets
first line seems to call for a sort of geek solidarity, but it's an
appeal laced with self-loathing: "Comic books and video games
should be much closer friends. Neither medium gets the respect it
deserves from our snooty parents." (Yeah, because we all still
live with our parents. Ha ha. That joke never gets
old.) The second quote is much more grandiose:
"Individually, neither comics nor video games tend to get the respect
they deserve as legitimate art forms, but when the two come together,
the quality of the results should be undeniable." Hmm. You
might want to check that math again. More than likely the result
of combining two marginalized media will a more insular product, not
some transcendent "third way" art form. Consider the converse
melding of the two media: Have any comic books based on video
games ever achieved "undeniable quality"?
Image Solicits for March
Written by Mark Millar, art by J.G. Jones, colored by Paul Mounts,
cover by Jones.
It's mayhem in the underworld as the factions of the world-controlling
super-villain cadre known as The Fraternity square off against each
other. Who will live? Who will die? And what do the Dollmaster's
psycho-killer dolls have to do with it? Superheroes as you¹ve
never seen them before.
But comic book hype exactly as you've always seen it. ("Who will
live? Who will die?"? Wasn't that on the cover of every comic
from the 80s, especially if it was a John Byrne comic?)
PHANTOM JACK #1
Written by Mike Sangiacomo, art and cover by Mitchell Breitweiser.
Jack Baxter is a New York newspaper reporter who always seems to get
the impossible stories. He has a gift (or is it a curse?) to become
invisible at will. Sometimes he uses his powers for good, other times
for selfish gain. Despite his success, though, he's not a happy man. He
carries the guilt of letting a friend die in a foreign land, a friend
he could have saved if only he had the courage. And now he must go
"Roach Motel." Meet the man who is not there. What would you do if you
were unseen? Jack Baxter confronts his fear to release the hero inside,
but no good deed goes unpunished.
Finally! And speaking of superhero clichés that never go
out of style, it's nice to see the powers = gift + curse
still limping along.
But the award for strangest solicit info has to go to...
Written by Adam Shaw and Penny Register, art and cover by Shaw.
Amber seduces the lab assistant and escapes her bonds. She then
navigates expertly through the BioGenCo complex as if guided by some
mysterious, unseen force.
And then she runs into some guards in the complex. And there's a
struggle. And I'm bored.
2003 in Review: The X-Fan Version
Thanks to Kevin
, I read ComiX-Fan's
picks for the Top Comic Events of 2003
. I love some of their
comments for their picks:
On the 80s nostalgia books:
"But is this really what comic readers want? It
seems that everyone gets excited at the announcement of a new 80s
revival project. Come release time, the #1 issue may do well, but with
the exception of a few, sales quickly decline. Freud would have a field
day with the nostalgia factor being the big decider. Perhaps the
quality doesn't match up to our expectations; perhaps it does but we
quickly realise we're not getting our childhood back. One thing's for
sure: These 80s properties are a great way to lure in the mainstream
consumer into the comic industry. So hopefully, they'll stick around
for a while."
Yeah, because if dedicated comic readers aren't even willing to buy
these series, obviously the mainstream audience will eat them up!
(Then again, look at the popularity of properties like 'Scooby
Doo.' Maybe X-Fan has a point: If the fanboys won't bite,
maybe the public-at-large will!!)
"Everyone was talking about it. All the buzz in the
industry was focused on it. It was the reading event of the year."
Was anyone really reading this, as opposed to simply looking at the
pretty pictures? ("Look, now Jim Lee is drawing a completely
different Batman villain this issue! AWESOME!!") It seems
who did read the series were pretty disappointed in it, so I think
it's a stretch to refer to it as the reading event of
On DC signing creators to exclusives:
"With the new millenium, Marvel has regained its #1
position in the comic book industry with the strategies of its
notorious former President Bill Jemas. So what's an underdog to do?
Why, ask Papa Time and Mama Warner to provide. Finally, it seems DC's
parent company is willing to provide for its comic properties, not just
in all the blockbuster movies, not just in statuettes and miscellaneous
memorabilia, but where it counts -- in the comic book field."
(I have no idea if "Papa Time and Mama Warner" really footed the
bill for DC to sign all these creators, but I know posting this will
get a rise out of Graeme.)
On the Princess Di X-Statix brouhaha:
"Marvel felt cornered into giving the storyarc a
makeover, and the true genius (if you will) behind it, award-winning
scribe Peter Milligan, had no choice but to make altercations
of the inclusion of Diana into something entirely different and almost
unrecognisable, that was ill-received by most X-Statix readers -- the
only ones who ever truly mattered in the whole debacle." [Emphasis
Typo or meaningful malapropism? U-DECIDE!!
On the Jesus Castillo case:
"But in August, 2003, the Supreme Court denied the
appeal to hear Castillo's case. Not only was this the final blow to the
comic industry, but comic fans as a whole were discouraged more than
ever that the society they live in still cannot open its mind and move
past the stereotypes of the clique in this day and age."
Stereotypes? Which ones? You mean the same ones X-Fan
used to open discussion of the Castillo event?: "Just when you
thought it was safe to live in your parents' basement and be a comic
geek away from the rest of the world..."
"I Am Reborn, Like A Cheap Plastic Action Figure."
Disturbing Trend: Toy lines devoted to specific storylines.
Not content with making action figures based on each and every
publish, DC is now putting out action figures based on each and every
slight variation of every character they publish. First it was
the Kingdom Come action figures, now it's THE
DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
seminal work on the gritty, ground-breaking DARK KNIGHT RETURNS changed
the landscape of comics forever and inspired a new generation of comics
creators. Now, DC Direct celebrates that immortal series with a quartet
of figures beautifully sculpted by Tim Bruckner that capture the look
and feel of Miller’s Batman, Superman, The Joker, and Robin!
DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: BATMAN ACTION FIGURE measures
approximately 7 3/8” tall, features multiple points of articulation and
comes with a Batarang with rope. This figure also includes a sidewalk
base and comes packaged in a 4-color window box.
DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: ROBIN ACTION FIGURE, which portrays
Carrie Kelly as the Dark Knight’s apprentice, measures approximately 4
7/8” tall, features multiple points of articulation and comes with a
slingshot and rope. This figure also includes a sidewalk base with
street lamp featuring a glow-in-the-dark street lamp and comes packaged
in a 4-color window box.
DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: THE JOKER ACTION FIGURE measures
approximately 6 5/8” tall, features multiple points of articulation and
comes with a two pistols and a Joker doll. This figure also includes a
sidewalk base and comes packaged in a 4-color window box.
This project is supported
with trade and house ads and a full-color promo poster.
DARK KNIGHT RETURNS: SUPERMAN ACTION FIGURE measures
approximately 7 3/8” tall, features multiple points of articulation and
comes with alternate hands holding a crushed Bat-armor helmet and a
Kryptonite arrow. This figure also includes a sidewalk base and comes
packaged in a 4-color window box.
What do these toys do? I imagine the Batman figure complaining
about being too old. And why is there no Mutant Leader figure,
with Mud Pit / Operating Table Battleground Arena (sold
separately)? I really want some Mutant Gang figures that say the
classic lines "BALLS nasty" and "Leader don't shiv." Now there's
a toy I might seriously consider buying.
Back To The Nineties
Disturbing trend: Too much Top Cow (Image? Aspen?) art on DC
- SUPERMAN/BATMAN #8: "featuring the amazing art of
Michael Turner (Fathom)"
- TEEN TITANS: A KID’S GAME: "a cover by Michael
- THE FLASH #208: "cover by Aspen Studios’ Michael Turner!"
- ACTION COMICS #813: "Part 4 of the 6-part “Godfall,”
written by Michael Turner (Fathom)...with art by Aspen Studios’
Talent Caldwell (Fathom: Killian’s Tide); cover by Turner"
- ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #626: "Written by Michael
Turner, Joe Kelly and Greg Rucka; art by Talent
Caldwell, Jason Gorder, Matt Clark and Nelson DeCastro; cover by Turner"
- SUPERMAN #203: "Written by Michael Turner, Joe Kelly
and Brian Azzarello; art by Talent Caldwell, Jason Gorder, and Jim Lee;
cover by Turner"
I know Marvel is determined to turn back the clock to the 90s, but does
DC have to follow suit? Did I miss the DC memo announcing their
own "Heroes Reborn"?
Fun with DC Solicits and Covers
From the DC website
"WONDER WOMAN #202
: Veronica Cale had a plan to discredit
Wonder Woman, but she was betrayed. Now Cale is going to close the
leak...permanently. Why does Cale hate Diana so intensely?"
Answer: Wonder Woman upstaged Veronica Cale at a gala
event. You know how catty women are! Ha ha ha!!
"BIRDS OF PREY #65
...cover by Greg Land and Jay Leister"
Hey, Greg Land is drawing a Birds of Prey
Dinah suddenly looks just like Arwyn from Sojourn
! Gee, I
wonder if there's a connection!
"EYE OF THE STORM: COUP D'ÉTAT AFTERWORD
: As the
dust settles from last month's massive COUP D'ÉTAT crossover,
here's a primer for where things stand in the Wildstorm Universe!"
And to kick things off, the cover features the fabulous new costume for
Holden Carver from SLEEPER! AWESOME!!
Tokyopop's Epic Plans
have already linked to news that Tokyopop
is expanding its presence
into more retail outlets (Wal-Mart, Stop
and Shop, Sam Goody). Now Newsarama
has an article up about how Tokyopop is going to be publishing original
content in addition to manga reprints. Shawn should love this
“This is a place for creators to do something
different from what the traditional comics fans are used to—stories
about kids and their crazy pets, girls and their otherworldly
boyfriends, or teens playing ancient games in magical worlds,” Paniccia
said. “Sure, the industry has produced a wide variety of stories, but
it’s usually the exception in this super-powered avenger-centric
That last part leads to one of the rules of Tokyopop’s expanded line of
new, original projects – no capes or tights. “There’s a strict rule
here to avoid anything that remotely smacks of traditional superhero
comics in either story or art,” Paniccia said. “Tokyopop is not
competing with DC or Marvel. Superheroes are not the company’s
strength, nor is there a desire to move in that direction. It’s not our
And if you’re thinking that this is starting to sound like an open call
for talent...well…Paniccia’ got a publishing schedule for 2005 that
he’s looking to fill.
Epic contributors! Quick, time to rejigger your proposals as
black-and-white, non-spandex projects!!
And once again I love how thoroughly Newsarama proofs its
articles: "it reads left to right rather than left to
right." I'm assuming they meant that the new material, which will
be done by Western creators, will read in the left-to-right format,
while Tokyopop's manga will continue to be published right-to-left.
So did Prophecy Anthology
ever come out? Their
said it was "set for release on November 30th, 2003" but I
don't remember hearing anything about it. Anyone get it?
EW Comics Coverage
In the December 19, 2003 edition of Entertainment
(#742), the subscribers-only supplement "Listen2This"
a page of comics coverage. Since the comics section is only a
single page this time, fewer comics
are reviewed, and there's no "a comics creator discusses his favorite
comic" feature. The four comics reviewed are:
- Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories: A
- Tales of the Vampires: B
- Caper: B+
- The Golem's Mighty Swing: A-
Upcoming comics mentioned are: My Faith in Frankie
of the Heartland
, and The Clock Maker: Act 1
Too Lazy To Come Up With A Decent Title Even
You know how it is: Bored at work, but too lazy to write anything
substantive. What to do? Answer: Link to what other
people are blogging.
First up, Dave
reports on some of the manga he's read recently.
More cheers for Planetes
, more jeers for the
"misogynistic streak" running through Sanctuary
comments on several other manga. Also, Dave reproduces a number
of synopses from the Tokypop site in an effort to show that "a load of
the manga they're bringing over here is crap." Maybe I just have
really lowbrow tastes, but the sheer goofiness of some of the summaries
really appeals to me:
"When Mink rushes to buy the latest CD by her
favorite pop star, Illiya, she winds up instead with a software disc
from the future that allows her to become whomever she wants."
"Hideki's luck changes when he discovers Chi - an adorable but
seemingly stupid Persocom - tied up in a pile of trash. His first robot
companion turns out to be a lot more responsibility than he expected,
and she gets him into quite a few embarrassing situations."
"When he sees his crush, Risa, he transforms into his alter ego, the
phantom thief Dark Mousy. Unfortunately, when Dark Mousy sees his
crush, Risa's twin Riku, he transforms back into Daisuke."
That last one in particular sounds like something straight out of a
Silver Age DC comic. Maybe it's the nostalgia talking, but I like
goofy Silver Age stories. I'm not saying I want a return to a
period where every comic reads in the same stilted yet strangely
endearing manner, but I do like the occasional comic that's just
Anyway, Dave ends his piece by writing "There's a lot of bad comics and
some good comics, and some of each is American and some of each is
Japanese. Rather than having idiotic discussions about which format and
country is better, why not point out which titles -- from either source
-- are worth reading?" Aside from the characterization of certain
discussions as 'idiotic,' that's a sentiment I can get on board with.
, recently returned to blogging, points to a site that's come
up with a few more Manga
Stacks of varying degrees of Intimidation
. Start sending your
requests for future matchups to Alex at Keromaru: I think his
Photoshop skills are much more developed than mine.
did the legwork and found that, according to the US Supreme
kiddie porn ain't kiddie porn. But as the
points out, individual communities could still find
comics such as Blankets
or Battle Royale
obscene by local community standards. So be careful out there,
especially if you're a retailer in Jesus Castillo
old neck of the woods. And, Tokyopop, a little more info would be
nice so readers and retailers know what they might be getting into.
WARNING: You May Be An Italian Website And Not Even Know It
This Onion article
made me think it was time to google myself. Who knew that I was an Italian website
Some of the buzzwords remind me of my Chinese zodiac sign: Yep,
the dog is loyal, so I know this site must be about me. And the
logo confirms it:
I especially like the exclamation point: It just says, "This guy
grew up reading superhero comics!!"
I'm a little vague on what Jaka!a does. Google's translation says
"Jakala - An only service three times for your campaigns of regalistica
and boosting." The full mission
reads: "Jakala helps the companies to establish and
to consolidate the relations of business towards the own customers, the
consumers, the distributors and the force of sale, through plans
innovated you of boosting and fidelizzazione." Finally, "Moreover
Jakala offers to the own customers also the possibility to ad hoc study
articles and confection in function of the occasion and the
I don't know what it all means, but I'm impressed. I think I'm
going to start using regalistica
, and boosting
as buzzwords at work. I'm sure they'll catch on in no time.
Be sure to ask for your Jakala
, by the way, which promises "Only, sophisticated and
prestigious: the Jakala selection is studied in order to offer the
appropriate object to you for every occasion." And order with
confidence: Remember, "Jakala guarantees you a chosen width
imprinted to the quality and to the originality." Prego
OK, now that I've shown that I
don't hate all superhero comics
, let's go in the other direction
and show that I don't love all manga. Here are some manga that
fell flat for me:
by Sho Fumimura and Ryoichi Ikegami (Viz
• ~316 pages • $16.95/$17.95)
enjoying the first book
series, I was very disappointed in the next three volumes. Part
that was due to repetition--after a while, the pattern of the story
became much too familiar: Hojo is backed
into some unwinnable situation; Hojo easily resolves unwinnable
scenario in his
favor; flashback to Hojo and Asami's horrific and formative past; cut
scenes of modern-day Hojo and/or Asami
exclaiming "Sanctuary!" (yes, I know that's the book I'm reading, but I
really don't need the constant reminders). Another disappointment
was that the quality of the art seems to have gone down a bit from the
installment. I don't know if this is because of issues with the
reproduction of the art, or if the original manga suffered the same
dropoff, but the art in these volumes seemed less detailed (perhaps
more rushed or loose?) than before.
But the biggest reason
now leaves an unpleasant taste in my mouth is the repugnant, excessive
misogyny in the comic. Although it seemed obvious from the first
volume that this would be a "manly man's man" manga, I was hopeful that
series would have some
gender diversity thanks to Deputy Police
Ishihara, who seemed like a
strong female character. Boy, was I off. Instead of
providing a formidable opponent for Hojo on the side of law
enforcement, Ishihara is reduced to yet another measure of Hojo's
charisma. Ishihara is depicted as literally weak in the knees
when she thinks of Hojo, at one point squeezing her own breasts because
she's so aroused by Hojo's skill at beating his adversaries. Mind
you, she's doing this while at work, in her office, in full uniform,
with her male partner sitting only a few feet away in the same
room. Because, you know, women get so turned on thinking about
"bad boys" that they can't contain themselves or concentrate on their
work. Nice adolescent fantasy.
Even worse, shortly thereafter, Ishihara declares that she's willing to
give up her entire career in law enforcement in order to follow
Hojo. Never mind that she has no idea what Hojo's ultimate plans
or motivations are. None of that matters because Hojo is hot
Also repulsive: The way that women are depicted as objects for
Tokai to rape while lightheartedly declaring his homoerotic attraction
to Hojo. Ha ha! It's funny, you see, because Tokai really
loves Hojo, but he can't bring himself to consummate that desire, so he
rapes nightclub workers instead. Ha ha! Charming!!
I don't think I'll be reading the rest of this series. I know the
series is about individuals choosing to operate outside the law, so
it's bound to be unseemly to a degree, but the pervasive sexism in this
series crosses a line for me.
by Kenturo Miura (Dark
• 224 pages • $13.95)
All style and no substance. I imagine this manga
might appeal to fans of the original Image-school of comics (the
protagonist Guts sports a sword even bigger than any weapon ever
wielded by a Liefeld character -- see below)
but there's not much beyond some detailed renditions of people losing
their heads (or limbs or torsos) to hold the reader's interest. I
know that mysterious characters with dark pasts often make for engaging
entertainment, but after reading this, I simply didn't care what Guts'
background or motivation might be: By making Guts so thoroughly
unlikable throughout the book, Miura squanders
whatever goodwill readers might extend to the character. Others
might disagree, arguing that Guts' gruff exterior heightens the
or adds to his anti-hero air, but I need some hint that a character has
some redeeming (or at least intriguing) traits to capture my interest.
Perhaps such traits will be revealed in forthcoming volumes, but I
also lack the patience to wait for something that may never come.
In the meantime, I have no desire to read about a selfish, thuggish,
character, even if his sword is ridiculously big.
by Hiroshi Takahashi and Misao Inagaki (Dark Horse
• 304 pages • $14.95)
I was going to write more about this, but Bill Sherman
beat me to it with his
. I'll just quickly summarize what I see as
the two main failings of this book:
(1) It's a movie adaptation,
in the worst sense of that tradition. If you've seen The
the Japanese original or the American remake) you're already familiar
with the basic storyline, and this manga only seems concerned about
hitting the basic plot points ("Yep, now she'll watch the tape.
Yep, now her ex-husband will watch the tape. Yep, now her kid
will watch the tape...."); it offers nothing new or different to
distinguish it as
a work worth reading in its own right.
(2) The art in the manga
isn't scary, which means that it works against the story it's trying to
serve. The art isn't horrible in it's own right, but it's simply
mismatched for the material: The open art fails to establish
a sense of dread or unease--it's simply too comforting and
relaxed for a horror story. Example:
So the protagonist sees...what? A tiny, faceless doll? How
is that frightening? And then when she turns, the room appears
bright and open. How is this disturbing or unnerving?
Imagine if Junji Ito had illustrated this scene and you can begin to
appreciate just how spectacularly Inagaki's art fails.
by Koshun Takami and Masayuki Taguchi with
English adaptation by Keith Giffen (Tokyopop
• 224 pages •
Geez, it's like a completely different comic
suddenly. Some possible explanations for my shift in feelings
regarding this series:
- Too long of a delay between volumes led to a decrease of
enthusiasm (cf. The Ultimates Effect)
- Impatience led to my reading the novel
(from Viz), which in turn
led to my no longer being surprised by major plot points
- Also, stripped-down grittiness of novel makes goofy caricatures
look that much more ridiculous in retrospect
- Decline in artistic quality: The art in vol. 3 looks fuzzy
hazy, which is strange because I thought Tokyopop was delaying the
series to improve the art;
instead, it's gotten worse. I would have preferred the crisp
volumes one and two to the filtered-through-cheesecloth greys of vol.
- Jarring shift from shockingly violent manga to gratuitously
pornographic hentai (especially disturbing considering the graphic sex
scene depicted apparently involves a minor: Hey, smart move,
Tokyopop! You just opened yourself to prosecution under obscenity
laws!! And thanks for warning me that I might be unwittingly
purchasing child pornography!)
Once again, thanks to the
perils of pre-ordering, I'm locked into the next two volumes of a
series I suddenly have no interest in. My only hope is that
Tokyopop continues to delay this book, thus leading to resolicitations,
thus giving me an opportunity to bail.
by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical,
• 400 pages • $24.95)
This really surprised me. So many reviewers I respect
raved about this, I really expected to enjoy it. I suppose part
of my disappointment can be chalked up to "the backlash effect" (most
recently seen with Blankets
), but I swear I'm not just
trying to be
contrary: I really thought Buddha
substandard work, and I'm
left wondering why everyone else seems to love it. I'm fine
leaving it at "I don't get it," but I figure I may as well lay out my
two main complaints, if only to offer an alternate opinion:
What constitutes "good" comic art is an area
differences in opinion have been known to get heated, so I'll do my
best not to slip into objective-sounding pronouncements about Osamu
Tezuka's art. With the comics blogosphere now seeming to have
come down from DEFCON 1, I'm wary about setting things off again,
so please let me make this very clear: WHAT FOLLOWS IS
. Anyway, I think my complaint with the art in Buddha
resembles the problem I had with the art in The Ring
doesn't seem to fit the material. I'm not opposed to Tezuka's
style per se, but it doesn't seem to work
with the historical setting, especially those scenes that call
for a less cheery approach (such as depictions of extreme poverty or
class stratification). I don't feel like I'm reading about
history (or a story based loosely on historical events); I feel like
I'm reading a Disney comic that decided to use historical characters to
give the story gravitas. (And, yes, I'm aware of the
influence Disney had on Tezuka.)
Aside from matters of style, which obviously involve issues of taste, I
also have problems with some of the mechanics of Tezuka's art. In
this sequence, for example, Tezuka breaks the 180-degree
, and there seems
to be no reason for composing the scene this way:
If Tezuka had drawn the page with the characters lining up on the same
side consistently, it would have been much easier to follow the flow of
events. (Interestingly, the top portion of this sequence was
featured in Greg
McElhatton's review of Buddha
, but he omitted the
page's final panel.)
Toward the end of the book, a monk is
punished for failing to grasp the full meaning of a parable--the Riddle
of the Self-Sacrificing Rabbit. In the tale, a monk (Master
Goshala) traversing a difficult mountain pass collapses from hunger and
fatigue. Three animals come across the monk: A bear, a fox,
and a rabbit. Each creature goes off in search of something for
the monk to eat. The bear returns with a pile of fish he caught
in a nearby stream. The fox returns with some berries that he
found by digging in the snow. But the rabbit returns
empty-handed (empty-pawed?) Meanwhile, the monk has revived, and
now builds himself a fire, presumably to prepare the fish. Once
the fire is burning, however, the rabbit suddenly throws himself onto
the flames, sacrificing himself so that the monk may eat.
So what is the point of the tale? In the beginning of the book,
the other monks appear bewildered by the tale. One monk even
objects that the story cannot be true. The monks are reassured by
a different master (Master Asita) that the tale is
told to him by his
master, none other than Goshala
himself! Furthermore, Asita tells his pupils that "there are but
few who can solve the riddle; he who can has the power to become a god,
or ruler of the world."
At one point in the story, yet another monk (Naradatta) thinks that he
has come to understand the riddle when he witnesses the selfless
sacrifice of another character:
Master Asita!! O teacher! I grasp the
meaning of your tale! Master Asita! This child has shown me
the way! Until now, I've only considered the human world.
That is why I could not understand why a rabbit sacrificed itself to
save a human... In nature, humans and beasts, even snakes, are all
kin. Helping each other is the law of the living.
Later on, however, Naradatta is reprimanded by Master Asita for
sacrificing several animals to save one human:
To save just one human, you mindlessly harnessed
numerous beasts to an impossible task...and killed them one by
one! The beasts you bent to your purpose all suffered greatly and
died cruelly! You believe that human lives are sacrosanct while
animal lives are worthless?! .... Life is sacred whether or not it is
OK, fine. All life is sacred. That still doesn't explain
why the rabbit was justified in immolating itself simply to feed Master
Goshala in the original tale, especially since the bear and the fox had
already found food for the monk. Maybe the rabbit should have
held off a bit to see if the food they had found was enough for the
monk before committing suicide. And even if the monk had needed
more food, why should the rabbit die to save the monk if all life is
sacred? The riddle seems structured to lead to the conclusion
that human life is more valuable than other life, so I'd say Naradatta
learned the lesson of the parable perfectly well.
It may seem as though I'm nitpicking on this point, but the Riddle of
the Self-Sacrificing Rabbit is obviously supposed to be of central
importance in the narrative, so it's a little annoying that it isn't
treated consistently. Or perhaps I just don't get the
riddle, either. I have been known to have a bit of a blind spot
when it comes to religion.
So there you have it: Five whole manga I wasn't crazy
about. Tune in next week when I suddenly develop an appreciation
for the writing of Brian Michael Bendis and the art of Rob Liefeld.
For those who might think I'm a superhero-hater (or at least too
negative about mainstream comics most of the time), here's some
unrestrained enthusiasm for a spandex 'n' capes book on my part:
STEVE RUDE COMIC IS FINALLY COMING OUT! WHOO-HOO!!
I now await ADD's derision. (If being excited for THE MOTH
doesn't strike you as grounds for mockery, remember that The
was one of my favorite books in 2002.)
Chris Weston has also
been talking about his and pitches for a "Bizarro" book.
"I really want to work with Tom Peyer next, and together we
pitched a 'Bizarro Vs. Brainiac' mini-series to DC, but it got
rejected. Think about it, the DCU's dumbest character fights the
cleverest... it would have been great! Here's my character design for
Bizarro, whose skin I saw as being chrystalline and transparent."
"The plan was to follow that up with "World's Freakiest:
Bizarro-Superman teams up with Man-Bat" which Grant Morrison wanted to
write. Grant and I even got Bizarro's personal blessing when we
summoned him up in a shamanic moment during last summer's San Diego
convention. But it's not to be! Apparently, DC have 'other plans' for
the character... whatever they are. They won't be as good as ours. All
together now: aaaaah.....
Alan David Doane, Evil Genius
Apparently ADD realized the easiest way to destroy the entire Comics
Blogoshpere was by getting it to self-destruct in an argument
You fools! Don't you see that's what he wants
Can't we find something that we all agree on?
Need... superheroes... to save us with dramatic POWER OF LOVE ending!!
Reviews I Agree With
Once again, too lazy to do my own comic reviews, so here are some good
reviews I've run across recently:
McElhatton on Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Book One:
Greg reviews the latest anthology from Drawn & Quarterly.
I've read it, and I think I basically agree with Greg's final thoughts
on the book: "Does Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Book One
succeed in showcasing two up-and-coming comic creators? Very much so.
After reading this book you'll definitely want to buy more comics from
Huizenga sight unseen, and certainly want to see more of Robel's works
as well." I qualify my agreement because Greg may be a little
more enthusiastic about wanting to see Robel's future work than I
am. I think Greg's earlier statement about Robel's piece was
fitting: "It hammers its points home a little too much, though,
and what could have been a powerful shorter story seems to overstay its
welcome by just a little too much." I definitely agree that Kevin
Huizenga's three-chapter tale is a winner, though: Alternately
mundane and mystical, it's an engaging, powerfully-presented story.
Butcher on Naruto vol. 2
: I like this so
much I'm just going to reproduce the whole bit:
back at ENERGY! Along with its fellow Shonen JUMP serialized title ONE
PIECE, NARUTO is leading the way in the high-energy-comics sweepstakes!
Every illustration and emotion leaps off the page, making for some
bloody visceral comics reading. It’s interesting to
compare-and-contrast with North American Comics’ best-selling “High
Energy” title, THE ULTIMATES. Last week’s ULTIMATES issue featured
Thunder Gods tearing space ships out of the sky, lightning strikes and
robots and all that. Very pretty, very BIG stuff. But it was all… It
was very much as if you were looking at the motion as a series of
stills from a movie. Lovely, impressive, even dynamic to a certain
degree, but it was only screen-captures of what must be a hell of a
movie. Something like NARUTO or ONE PIECE, the characters dance across
the page. There’s speed and motion and energy, you’re watching the
movie, you’re playing the videogame, you ARE the protagonist, that
barrier is removed. It’s a hell of a big difference and I think it’s
phenomenal, and I think that’s one of the primary reasons that manga’s
rising-popularity in North America is so popular. We’ve got
big-budget-blockbuster movies already, we don’t need to see
single-frames from them blown up and turned into a comic. What we need
is comics that use being comics to their full advantage, and it
seems the vast majority of the books delivering on that are coming to
us from overseas.
I felt the same way when I read Akira
not too long
was how to convey kinetic, high-energy
, while not one of my favorite
serials from Shonen Jump
, definitely succeeds in
capturing a similar sense of motion.
(Aside: In his comments on Walking Dead
comments that he can't think of any other zombie comics out there to
exploit the untapped SURVIVAL HORROR market. Here are some recent
ones that came to mind: Lone
and several recent issues of Metal Hurlant
Boudreau on Club 9 vol. 1
: In reviewing
, one of my favorite manga, Chad captures part of
what I think
makes this series so appealing (at least from my heterosexual
women of Club 9 have real-life sensuality to
them, something that is missing in a lot of comics, whether North
American or Japanese....The women that work in the club are not your
stereotypical manga women. Sure, they have the wide eyes but these
women are pleasantly plump and curvaceous, not muscled, long-legged and
disproportionately endowed in boobs.
No wonder I'm so drawn to this manga: I'm being subtly seduced by
the charming, non-conventional beauty of Makoto Kobayashi's characters!
: It should be obvious, but I'll come
right out and say it just in case there was any doubt. Because I
agree with these reviewers, they are therefore RIGHT
The Objectiveness of My Opinion
Just getting caught up on blog-reading and noticed the escalating
dispute between Alan
. ADD has spurred a lot of discussion by nominating
as "the best superhero cover of the last decade."
have joined in
to wonder just what criteria ADD is using in order
to reach this assessment (nostalgia? simplicity? staticness?), Laura
seems to be the most flummoxed by ADD's pick, writing
ADD must be "pulling people's leg" (I like the thought of many
people sharing one collective leg--a leg at peace until ADD started
tugging on it).
What interests me most in this ongoing argument is that both sides seem
to think their opinions are objective truth, yet neither offers any
support for his or her position. Why does ADD think Seth's
superhero covers are even worth looking at, given that he also
pronounces "superheroes are dead"? No idea! Why does Laura think
that portraits of Aquaman surrounded by small fish are "tons better at
being superhero covers" than group shots of the X-Men or JSA?
Beats me! Neither side has seen fit to explain the criteria
behind his or her evaluation.
I know it's natural to lapse into objective speak when writing about
art or entertainment. I'm sure I do it too (or at least I've been
trying to, since I'm told my overly qualified subjective statements are
too passive and boring), but it'd be nice to see some reasoning
those opinions. Laura, if you simply assert
picks are obviously better than ADD's, how are you being any less
snobby or dismissive than ADD?
Plus, you're both wrong anyway. This
is the best
superhero cover of the past decade:
Dude! Look at the size of that gun!! AWESOME!!
Damn. Just after I posted this, I noticed
explain why he thinks the Seth cover is worthy of
entry from 12/6
Seth's subtle, post-iconic treatment captures the
lost innocence of the Silver Age with grace and an appealing
sentimentality, being far kinder to the characters and their fans than
anyone who has been officially charged with maintaining the franchise
in the past 15 years or so.
My apologies to ADD for missing this. I guess he is willing to
back up opinions no one else agrees with. That's what I get for
slacking off on my weekend blog reading. (I'm now off to re-read
Laura's blog, where I fully expect to find a passage explaining how the
Aquaman portrait covers grab readers' attention by causing them to
wonder, "Wha--? How can that man be surrounded by fish
And why does he look so...regal
? It's almost as if he were
King of the Seas or something...")
Interview Reviews: CBA and Back Issue
Last week Kevin
lamented the sad state of online interviews. I was
thinking about his complaints as I read two new(ish) comic magazines,
is a new magazine
from TwoMorrows Publishing--the first issue just hit stands a couple
weeks ago. Comic Book Artist
, on the other hand,
has a bit more
history to it: Originally published by TwoMorrows, the magazine
has now moved over to Top Shelf. The second issue of the second
volume also came out in November.
|Back Issue #1 •
TwoMorrows Publishing • $5.95 • B&W • 96 Pages
Interviews are featured prominently in both magazines. CBA
particular, devotes most of its space to interviews: Issue #2
features six interviews of varying length (Julie Schwartz, Mike Allred,
Rags Morales, Frank Cho, J.J. Sedelmaier, and Mike Friedrich).
only features one interview, but it constitutes nearly half of
the issue. Plus, it's an interview with a twist: Titled
"Pro2Pro," the format features "either an exchange between two (or
more) comics creators with a moderator, or a pro interviewing a pro,
each talking about their [sic] respective work." This issue, Marv
Wolfman and George Pérez are interviewed by Andy Mangels about
their Marvel and DC work during the 70s and 80s.
While the interviews in both mags are better (or at least more
in-depth) than the typical Pulse puff piece, they still have their
flaws. "Pro2Pro" interviews seem intrinsically doomed by their
format: How many creators are going to speak freely when in the
presence of their peers? The Wolfman-Pérez piece quickly
devolves into fawning back-patting (Pérez himself even refers to
the mutual admiration society feel of the interview at one
point). Moderator Andy Mangels doesn't help matters by lobbing
out softballs like "[Y]our book [New Teen Titans
] is one where
fans can remember issue numbers and stories with uncanny accuracy."
relies on the more traditional interview format of one
and one interviewee, but even here interviews aren't without
problems. The Mike Allred interview is derailed at several points
by the interviewer's attempts at humor. While I can appreciate
that the interviewer was perhaps going for a more conversational tone,
I found the constant use of bracketed "stage directions" (e.g.,
[laughs], [laughter], [make rimshot noise]) annoying. It probably
would have been less distracting had CBA
just let the
on its own without all the unnecessary cues littering the text.
Comic Book Artist vol. 2 #2 • Top
Shelf • $7.50 • B&W • 112 Pages (16 in color)
Ultimately, the biggest problem facing each magazine is
timeliness. Several interviews are marred by hopelessly outdated
material. In the Mike Allred interview, Allred still refers to
Princess Diana being part of the X-Statix team in the "Di Another Day"
storyline. There is an editorial note that "[s]ince this
interview was conducted in early July, Marvel has decided to omit
Princess Di from the storyline," but no follow-up to see how Allred
feels about the changes to the subversive storyline he had been so
to work on. Without such a follow-up, the piece feels
to five months old, which is ancient in this wired age.
Which makes me wonder: What is
the lead time for this
magazine? Are all
interviews going to be done four to five months in advance? I
don't want to appear insensitive--the editor indicates that part of the
reason for the extreme lateness of CBA
#2 was "an
bout of acute, chronic bronchitis"--but I think a magazine covering the
comic industry is going to face problems if it feels like old news when
finally hits shops. Especially in this age of immediate news on
the Internet, print mags need to be faster
if they're going to
compete with free websites. (Although sometimes the lag time
leads to unintentional humor: In their "Pro2Pro" both Wolfman and
Pérez go on and on about how returning to Teen
Titans--especially to complete the
unfinished Games GN
--would be "anti-climactic" and
glories." 'Nuff said.)
Aside from these limitations, each magazine has strengths that will
likely appeal to different audiences. First and foremost, what
will probably attract
fans is the artwork: Each mag offers plenty of pictures to look
found that CBA
was stronger in this area: In
addition to having
production values overall, CBA
also includes a 16-page
color section. CBA
also has a much stronger
design, with crisp, easy-to-read layouts; pleasing design elements; and
a sharp-looking perfect bound format. Back Issue
on the other hand, looks much more amateurish: Artwork is tilted
for no reason; images are faintly repeated behind text, making it
difficult to read at times; and a lot of space is simply left blank,
causing the book to feel padded. Surprisingly, publisher John
Morrows reveals that the emptiness was intentional:
[W]e needed a designer to break new ground with the
mag's look. My old college pal Robert Clark has been after me to
involve him in a TwoMorrows publication for a long time, and this was
the perfect place for his cutting-edge design sensibilities. He's
a master at using white space to give the eye a resting place,
perfectly complementing Michael's silky-smooth text.
A master at using white space? I suppose, in the way that a high
school student desperate to meet the minimum page requirement is a
master at using white space. (And even with all those empty
was still four pages shy of its advertised
100-page length.) Here are sample pages from Back
. Kevin Melrose: Features Games
you may not have seen yet!) and CBA
so readers can see what I'm talking about. (The bad crop job on
sample is my fault: I couldn't get very
deep into the gutter due to the perfect bound format of CBA
Beyond aesthetic considerations, each publication has a distinctive
editorial feel. With its title, Back Issue
pretty much wears its editorial vision on its sleeve: This
magazine is dedicated to covering the past glory of comic books.
If, like publisher John Morrows, you feel that "[t]he
1970s-1980s still have a lot of great material to be documented," then Back
is the mag for you. In addition to the aforementioned "Pro2Pro"
feature, Back Issue
will also feature the following
The Greatest Stories Never Told (looks at comics which never saw
print); Back In Print (reviews of recently released reprint volumes);
and Beyond Capes ("examinations of non-superhero comics or comic-book
trends"). In the first issue, Beyond Capes focused on
Tarzan--both the DC and Marvel versions. (Although to be fair,
"DC vs. Marvel" was the theme of the first issue, and next issue
promises to be less "Big Two"-centric, with a spotlight on Comico.)
The focus of CBA
can also be found in its title:
Whereas Back Issue
seems more excited about the
characters and companies of yore, CBA
seems more focused
on the creator--the comic book artist
. As CBA
editor Jon B. Cooke put it in his editorial from the Top Shelf debut:
Y'see, it's fundamental in the philosophy of Comic
Book Artist that it is NOT about things; it's about people.
While we may have
been using hyperbolic subtitle, "Celebrating the Lives and Work of the
Great Cartoonists, Writers & Editors," I always preferred the
feistier--and more correct--banner "Price Guide NEVER Included," but
only used it once or twice. What me, a wuss?
But no, I've always been adamant--and hardly shy about expressing my
contempt--about the things I hate in this business. I hate the
coveting, selfishness, greed, speculation and slabbing coming
hand-in-hand with the collecting bug. I despise the adoration of
the hero (i.e., the "property") above respect for the creator
Do the titles of the mags matter? Are they really indicative of
each mag's approach to its content? Perhaps not. Perhaps
Cooke's rant is all a bit of after-the-fact bluster and
posturing. Whatever the case may be, it's probably more
instructive to look at the end results and make one's judgments based
on actual content. With that in mind, I have to be impressed with
a magazine that can give me a deeper appreciation of a "shallow"
subject such as Frank Cho. I'll be even more impressed if CBA
can succeed in humanizing unlikeable interviewees such as John
Byrne, who will be featured in CBA
#3. Then again,
I probably shouldn't set unrealistic expectations for the magazine.
Graeme McMillan pointed out in the comments
section that the contents of CBA
#3 have been changed from what
was originally announced in the back of CBA
#2: The John Byrne
interview has been postponed til issue #4
now featuring a Darwyn Cooke interview (presumably rescheduled to
better coincide with the release of Cooke's DC series New Frontier
So anyone wanting to see if John Byrne has it in him to be lovable in
an interview now has to wait a little longer.
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