Sporadic Sequential
Friday, April 27, 2007
A Tale of Two Publishers

It looks as though Akira Club has been cancelled by Dark Horse. Yesterday I received a notice from BN.com that the book still wasn't ready to ship, so they needed my approval for another 30-day extension on the order. Thinking that the book was due to come out 5/2 based on previous Comic List updates, I went ahead and approved the extension, but then decided to see if it was still scheduled to come out next week. According to both Diamond and Comic List, Akira Club was no longer listed for 5/2, and there were no other updates noted. Uh oh. Dark Horse's site still showed the book as having come out on 3/28, but eagle-eyed Althalus noticed that the book appeared to be dropped as it no longer appeared in search results for "Akira" or creator "Katsuhiro Otomo". I emailed Dark Horse for verification but haven't heard back yet. Has anyone else heard anything about Akira Club?

Meanwhile, it looks like those Eisner nominations have gone to Naoki Urasawa's Monster's head. Originally scheduled to come out last week, the eighth volume of this critically-acclaimed series has now been pushed back to 6/12. How do I know this? Simply from looking at Viz's site, which lists the updated release date. AMAZING! It's almost like companies can use this new-fangled Internet to communicate directly with their customers. Who would have guessed?

(And I still can't decide if Viz's plan to release TWELVE NEW VOLUMES of Naruto in four months is genius or insanity, but I'm certainly going to be interested to see how it plays out. My initial guess: The glut will lead to a noticeable cannibalization of sales, at least initially, and the new releases won't place as high on bestseller lists as other recent volumes, if they even manage to place at all.)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007
SFX: The Overlooked Art

Over at her Live Journal, Cutie offers a peek at the process for transforming Japanese sound effects into English ones for manga such as Oh My Goddess! I know I've often wondered how something like this

can be transformed into this

without ruining the artwork. And now I know the answer: lots and lots of painstaking Photoshop!

(And this probably reveals how immature I am deep down, but when I read the SFX of "BRAAAPPP" my first thought was, "That's some bad gas Urd's got!" (In my defense, my two-year old daughter has just started announcing whenever she or anyone else farts, so flatulence been on my mind a lot recently.))
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Manga Wanga Watch: Day Two

And now for comparison, some examples of erect penises from a manga (City Hunter by Tsukasa Hojo from the late, lamented Raijin Comics):


Amazingly, this isn't even scratching the surface of the number of times
Ryo Saeba was shown sporting a stiffie in the pages of the series.

Has anyone else seen other notable imagery of penises (erect or otherwise) in any manga series? I thought there was an exposed penis in an early volume of Dragon Ball, but I think I gave the book away to my nephews. (Hopefully they remain uncorrupted.) Do any yaoi or BL books show male members, or do they discretely shy away from actually depicting the naughty bits?

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Saturday, April 21, 2007
Wang Watch 2007 2006 2004: Manga Edition

From the Eisner-nominated Walking Man by Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare/Ponent Mon):

Holy cow! That old dude's dingleberries are just dangling out there! Creepy!

(For context, see here, here, here, and here.)

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Saturday, April 14, 2007
Comic Artists in The New Yorker

Some nice illustrations from comic artists in The New Yorker dated April 16, 2007 (the "Journeys" issue):

Kevin Huizenga provides the illustration for a piece discussing the hellish commutes workers subject themselves to.

Adrian Tomine contributes a portrait of Ira Glass for a review of Glass's new Showtime series based on his popular NPR show, "This American Life."

The illustrations are also available on The New Yorker website, which apparently received a spiffy new redesign recently. (All that scanning for nothing!)
Friday, April 13, 2007
Dark Horse's Spring Break

I can see that tracking ComicList is going to become a new obsession of mine, at least until the items I optimistically pre-ordered arrive. I've been checking in every week to see what the updated release dates for Akira Club (originally solicited to come out 3/7) and Mail Volume 3 (2/21) are. For several weeks Dark Horse was just bumping out the release date by a week each week, but now most books have been pushed out another two full weeks, so items that had already been rescheduled for 4/18 have now been further delayed til 5/2. (And I'm sure once that date rolls around, there'll be another round of reschedules.)

Oh well, I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that Dark Horse books will always ship late, so they'll come out when they come out. And in the meantime I can read other books I'm behind on, like the library copy of Ode to Kirihito that's been sitting by my bed for weeks now.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
How Would That Even Come Up In The First Place?

They sure had a way with words in the Silver Age:

I swear, I hadn't even considered the sexual innuendo
when I first decided to post this.

I don't know which is stranger: the way her memory works or what her relationship with her father must be like.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The Sequential Screwball

The Professor's Daughter
By: Joann Sfar & Emmanuel Guibert
Length: 80 pages
Price: $16.95 (SC) / $29.95 (HC)
Publisher: First Second

The best way I can think to describe the feel of this book is to classify it as a screwball comedy. Like many of the best screwball comedies from the 30s and 40s, events happen quickly and the pace hardly ever lets up. I had to check to make sure I hadn't missed some pages at the start of the story, because we're introduced to the main characters in mid-conversation and expected to pick up things as we go (which is actually an effective way to engage readers, but I'm not used to it in comics; I think I've been conditioned to expect narrative captions to establish the setting).

Like many of the most memorable screwball comedies, the central plot revolves around a mismatched couple falling in love during the most trying of circumstances: Imhotep is a former pharaoh who's now destined for the Egyptian wing of the British Museum, while Lillian is the daughter of the distinguished archaeologist who dug him up in the first place. Together, they find comfort in each other's company, realizing that they both have reasons to feel restricted and confined by polite society. Of course, it wouldn't be a romantic comedy without some obstacles in the couple's way, and this book has them in spades: Meddling parents, murders, misunderstandings, and more miscellaneous mayhem.

The book is also like screwball comedies in that it's best not to think too deeply about matters. What at first glance comes across as charming and madcap can seem implausible or even annoying under closer scrutiny. (I'd mention one element that bothered me a bit, but it would involve spoiling a surprising twist.) Why do the characters fall for each other? It's broadly suggested but never fully fleshed out, so the relationship never really rang true for me, especially from Lillian's perspective.

The great screwball comedies stand up to repeated viewings, and The Professor's Daughter certainly fits the bill in that regard. Only in this case it's not to listen to rapid-fire repartee, but to admire the amazing artwork by Emmanuel Guibert. If there are times when the story seems in danger of losing its way, Guibert's art keeps everything grounded with his eye for detail, design, and color. In many respects, Guibert's artwork holds the story together, providing details that would otherwise go missing. Much of the book's characterization comes from Guibert's skilled use of body language and facial expressions; every time I open the book I uncover new nuances in characters' expressions and mannerisms. Given what a prolific artist Sfar is himself, I can only imagine that Sfar trusted in Guibert's abilities and let him tell much of the story visually without crowding the artwork with unnecessary exposition. It's a good example of true collaboration in a medium where writers and artists are often seen in outright opposition.

More page samples here.

One worry I have about recommending this book is that it feels a bit slim for $16.95. The story itself takes up just under sixty pages (the book's remaining pages feature some of Guibert's sketches) and reads very quickly. Of course, given the exquisite detail of Guibert's artwork, it's quite likely you'll return to the book again and again to marvel over his paintings, so I'll leave it up to individual readers to determine whether or not the book is worth its price.

One Final Note: After I read the book the first time, I left it lying around in our sunroom. When I later returned downstairs, my wife had — to my surprise — picked it up read the entire book cover-to-cover. Now, you have to understand: My wife has never read a comic or graphic novel on her own, and I've never really pushed her to do so, so for her to read one all the way through is really quite impressive. Her main complaint with comics in the past has been that they were hard for her to process: She couldn't assimilate the text and images simultaneously (which seems fair; I know many people dislike watching undubbed foreign films because they can't follow the film and the subtitles at the same time), and she was often confused by busy page layouts, getting lost when she'd try to figure out which panel should come next. So I thought it was quite a compliment to Sfar and Guibert's clear storytelling that she was able to follow the book without any problems. (As for her opinion on the story, she would only say that it was "weird," but I gathered that she was more bothered by some of the plot oddities than I was.)

Purchasing Info: According to ComicList, the hardcover Collector's Edition arrives in comic stores tomorrow, but both the hardcover and softcover versions are already available online.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Another Shopping Post

Here's another option for buying manga online cheaply: Deep Discount (which I remember as Deep Discount DVD, but apparently they've decided to branch out into other merchandise as well). I found a coupon for an additional 10% off your book order with the code "BOOKSALE" so I decided to check it out. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they offer substantial discounts (generally 30% on the titles I looked at), even on the $10 manga. So I ordered a bunch of manga, including the next volumes of Emma and Shaman Warrior, two recent reads I'm eager to continue with. With the additional 10% discount, it added up to a total savings of 37% on most items. They also offer free shipping on any size order, so it's a good place to shop if you just have an item or two you're interested in.

  • Free shipping on any size order, even a single item
  • Additional 10% off entire book order with code "BOOKSALE" (and code can be used more than once)
  • Great discounts on less expensive manga that often isn't discounted at other sites
  • Selection isn't the deepest. (I tried David Welsh's online shopping test and one item, Blue, wasn't found. However, I was able to find several other books from Ponent Mon.)
  • Site design and search functionality are very primitive. (I recommend searching by ISBN if you know it.)
  • Product info is non-existent. Use this site for items you already know you want to buy. This isn't a site for doing research.
  • Product availability info likely to be inaccurate. When I placed my order, everything was shown as "In-Stock" in the cart, but the next day when I checked my order status, three out of six items were listed as backordered, with no estimate on when they would be available. Even more frustrating, the order confirmation email from Deep Discount showed that five of the six items were on backorder. Further, as of this writing, all five of those "out-of-stock" items still show as in-stock when I search the site.
I have no idea how satisfied I'll be with the speed or condition in which my products are shipped, as I just placed my order yesterday, but I'm willing to wait for deals this good. However, if you do decide to try out Deep Discount, you should be aware that reviews have been mixed, especially recent ones, so buyer beware.

UPDATE 4/10: Well, at least the entire order isn't being held hostage while all the backordered items are being filled. I just got an email that two of the books shipped out today. So now I'll wait to see how long it takes for those to arrive (it's via USPS Standard Delivery, so it could be weeks), and how long before the rest of my order ships.

UPDATE 4/13: I received notification that the rest of my order shipped yesterday, so that wasn't too bad. And the code for an additional 10% off book orders expires today, so stock up now if you were thinking of trying this site!

UPDATE 4/14: The first two items from my order arrived yesterday, less than a week after I placed my order and only three days after I was notified the items shipped. Not bad! (Certainly better than an item from Overstock.com that shipped over two weeks ago and has apparently become lost in USPS limbo.) Also, the "BOOKSALE" code was still working for me this morning when I used it to replace an item that Buy.com cancelled from an order even though their site showed the item was currently in-stock.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
The Uncanny X-Goddesses

I think I may have figured out what's been causing the long delays with Dark Horse's Oh My Goddess! series. It appears that the long-running manga series has a new writer as of volume twenty-five. Although series creator Kosuke Fujishima is still providing the book's artwork, the writing duties are now being handled by none other than Chris Claremont. This change in authors may not be readily apparent, since Claremont's name is inexplicably absent from the book's credits, but I think an examination of the evidence at hand makes a strong case for Claremont's authorship. First up, consider this development:

That's right, it's Dark Belldandy. Tell me that's not something straight out of an old X-Men comic written by Claremont. "Oh no! Our virginally pure teammate has started wearing fetish outfits that are even more revealing than usual! She must be possessed by an evil force!"

That alone pretty much clinches it for me, but in case you need more convincing, here are other signs that Oh My Goddess! Volume 25 is a Claremont comic:
  • Two female characters (one completely naked, natch) share a tender moment that's completely innocent — what do mean there's implied lesbianism to titillate male readers?
  • A fierce female warrior struggles to understand simple human interactions, such as compliments.
  • An eeeeee-vil villainess mocks the heroes for their weakness.
  • The heroes retort that their weaknesses of compassion and camaraderie are really strengths that the villain could never hope to understand.
  • Teammates manage to share/swap each other's powers in unexpected ways to combat the villain.
  • Heroes endure great pain and suffering to escape the villain's trap through sheer force of will.
  • The battered hero makes an impressive last stand against the villain.
  • The lettering is done by Tom Orzechowski.
(Unfortunately, this volume missed a major opportunity to showcase a huge shared Claremontism since the character with the bad Gambit-esque accent was unconscious the whole time.)

But really, all you need to know is:


(Hmm, kind of reminiscent of Spiky Supergirl as well, now that I think about it.
Was Jeph Loeb a co-writer?)

It does appear that Claremont needs a little time to adjust to writing a manga series, however. He hasn't quite got a hang of the pacing yet, ending this volume abruptly and awkwardly in the middle of a fight scene. (Mid-lunge, even, which is really weird to think of that character sustaining that pose for months until the next volume comes out.)

At any rate, it should be interesting to see what Claremont has in store this venerable manga series. I look forward to the inevitable plot points of Belldandy losing her powers; Belldandy leaving the team; Keiichi falling for Urd; Keiichi and Belldandy's daughter from an alternate future traveling back in time to try to prevent the eradication of all goddesses; Skuld moving to London to form her own team when she mistakenly believes everyone else died; etc, etc.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Random Bookstore Thoughts

[NOTE: All thoughts relative to bookstores in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area, and even then narrowly focused on stores near work and home.]

» Borders does seem to have a broader selection of manga than Barnes & Noble — I actually saw several titles from Dark Horse at Borders while usually the only Dark Horse selections I see at B&N are scattered volumes of Oh My Goddess, although even Borders doesn't stock Mail or Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service — but I hate those stickers they affix to the back of every book.

» Most stores I've been at have had an American comics-to-manga ratio between 1:3 to 1:6.

» I haven't ever really seen scores of teens lounging around in the manga aisles reading books cover-to-cover. I do see lots of teen traffic in the manga section, but they usually hone in straight on the item(s) they're looking for and run off, presumably to buy them. One time at Borders I did overhear a conversation between a guy and gal who were camped out a couple rows over in the GN section, but by the time I made my way to that aisle they quickly got up and moved out of my way.

» I've yet to find a bookstore that stocks a complete run of Bleach starting with volume 1, while most stores seem to have every single volume of Naruto available on the shelves.

» Those Tokyopop and Viz endcap displays are pretty effective, at least in getting me to look at books I'd otherwise pass over. (In fact, I even bought a book off one of those displays after picking it up and flipping through it. Of course, after reading it, I've now resolved never to engage in manga impulse-buying again.) Are there any stats or studies showing how endcaps like these impact sales?

» Weirdest comic I've seen prominently displayed at a B&N: The Stan Lee Meets... collected edition. Is there really much interest in a $25 hardcover collecting one-off stories of Stan Lee interacting with characters he co-created?
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Printable Curmudgeon

Kevin Melrose already mentioned this over a week ago, but I'm slow in my shopping. Blogger David Welsh recently saw his work published in Print magazine with a nice overview on manhwa, or Korean comics. It's a well-done piece that covers all the bases, with plenty of high-quality images to illustrate the works being discussed. Congrats to David on seeing his work in print!

And as Kevin points out, there's plenty of other interesting material to justify the purchase of this pricey mag ($12.95), including a profile of R. Kikuo Johnson; an article about Friends With You (an "art and design entity" that, among other things, produces toys influenced by Japanese playthings); and ads for more design software and services than I ever knew existed.

UPDATE: David's piece is now online at BusinessWeek.com.