Sporadic Sequential
Monday, January 28, 2008
Spidey, You Sellout

From the Winter 2008 Pottery Barn Kids catalog:

Reminds me of when I was a kid: I had Spider-Man bedsheets, and my parents covered my toy box in Spider-Man contact paper. I remember thinking it was cool when I was able to match the image from my bedsheets to the image in the comics. Now I look at it and think about how much it sucks that those artists aren't getting compensated for their artwork being used over and over again. For example, how much do you think Steve Ditko would have made if he had been paid every time his artwork was appropriated for something like this?

And how bad is it that I'd still like to install that mural in my own room?

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008
And By 'Soon' ADV Means 'Some Time Before 2012'

A couple weeks ago I got a new Tokyopop Manga Magazine in the mail and was excited to see this ad on the back cover:

And then I noticed that the magazine was dated "Summer 2007" and my excitement diminished. As Johanna noted, the magazine came out really, really late and its contents are really, really old. Meanwhile, still no official word about when the Sgt. Frog DVD will be coming out. There's absolutely nothing on ADV's site, and the SgtFrogTV.com site promoted in the ad currently is just to sign up for email notifications. (I signed up and still haven't received any emails, not even to acknowledge the fact that I signed up.) In the meantime, I'll pass the time by watching free episodes of other anime series on Amazon Unbox.

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Monday, January 21, 2008
Two from Tomine

Here are two great illustrations by Adrian Tomine for recent New Yorker issues:

Illustration for "Ash Monday," a short story in the January 21, 2008 New Yorker.

And this one's a bit older, but I really liked the different individuals Tomine drew. I had meant to post it much earlier but forgot about it until the above illustration reminded me.

From the December 17, 2007 issue of The New Yorker,
in an interesting article discussing dissenting views on I.Q.

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Friday, January 18, 2008
Gon 2: Gon Jumps (Inside) The Shark

As a follow-up to my daughter's review of Gon Vol. 1, here are her thoughts on Gon Vol. 2:

"Noooo, dinosaur! Don't eat the baby penguins!! That's not OK!!!" [My daughter misinterpreted the scene of Gon opening his mouth to feed the baby penguins as Gon eating the baby penguins, so she was rather upset with him. "That's not OK!" is her phrase for letting others know she doesn't like what they're doing, usually directed at us when she doesn't want to do something we've asked her to do. After this, I'm not sure if she'll want to follow Gon's exploits anymore, but I'll offer her Gon Vol. 3 when it comes out to see if she's forgiven him by then.]

And here are my thoughts: "A dinosaur inside of a shark, both of them chasing after fish with their mouths wide open?? To paraphrase the infamous Mr. Sims, 'I AM NOW FREAKING OUT!!!'"

* This time she read the book left-to-right, so she started with the last chapter, which featured the penguins. After she saw Gon trying to eat the baby penguins, she wasn't interested in reading any further, even though I told her there was a shark with a dinosaur inside its mouth later in the book. Kids! You can't tell them anything!!

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Thursday, January 17, 2008
It Was A Gift -- I Swear!

Now that David Welsh has declared this "Jakala Family week" (kind of like "Batman Family," only with less brooding and punching), I needed to come up with a way to include our final family member, six-month-old Will. Then I remembered that Will's own "origin story" indirectly involved comics! While were still staying in the hospital after Will's birth, some friends came to visit and they brought gifts for everyone. Knowing that I read comics, they of course got me a comic-related item -- the recent retro Spider-Man pop-up book. So if not for Will, I would never have received the geekiest gift I own! (For Christmas, My parents gave the same book to my daughter, not realizing I already owned it. So now we have two copies of this fun pop-art pop-up book to enjoy! (Perhaps my parents, remembering how anal I used to be about my comics, were really giving me a second copy to keep "mint."))

"It's nice, Dad, but don't you have any manga?"

The pop-up effects in the book are really well-done.
Here's one of my favorites, a 3D recreation
of one of my favorite Ditko splash scenes.

Kraven Fact File: Kraven really hates filing cabinets,
and will charge at them like an enraged bull if he sees them!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Get 'Em Hooked While They're Young

I leave a lot of my comics lying around the house, and occasionally my daughter (age two) will pick them up. Usually she just glances at them and puts them back down, but every now and then one holds her interest and she pages through the whole thing. I was particularly impressed the other day when she grabbed a manga (Gon Volume 1) that was sitting on my dresser and started reading the book right-to-left. I didn't coach her on how to read the book, and she never reads her other books "backwards" so I'm not sure how she knew this one read in the other direction. I suppose I'll have to leave other manga lying around and see if she reads those "back-to-front" as well.

As you can see in the picture below, she's turning the pages from right-to-left:

A young manga fan enjoys GON

Even more interestingly, I could tell from watching her that she was reading the panels in the proper order as well (something I've been impressed that she's able to do with Western comics as well, since I never taught her how panel transitions work). And she understood what she read, because afterwards she couldn't stop talking about how the dinosaur was so small but he still beat up the big bear! And how the dinosaur rode the lion! And how the dinosaur built a really big beaver dam! And how the dinosaur flew like a birdy and fought a big cat! And finally she announced: "I really liked it, Daddy! Can I read it again?"* I guess it really is a testament to Masashi Tanaka's wordless storytelling skills that even a preliterate reader can follow what's going on in his books!

* I know I'm biased, but Best Manga Review Ever.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008
It's Magic, So I Don't Have To Explain It

It's always mildly annoying when the latest superhero sales stunt hits the mainstream media because I know that, inevitably, someone's going to approach me and ask me to explain it to them. "Hey, you read comics, right? So what's the deal with Spider-Man and Mary Jane getting divorced?" (I find it ironic that most of the people who've approached me about the editorially demonically-annulled marriage still think that Spidey and MJ got a divorce, despite Marvel's desperate attempts to avoid tainting their flagship character with such an "unseemly" development. (And, geez, way to insult people who have gone through a divorce, Marvel. I agree with Erik Larsen on this: if Joe Quesada had to do away with the marriage, a well-written divorce could have been touching and memorable, without tarnishing either character, and it could have been in keeping with the mighty Marvel tradition of dealing with touchy real-world subjects like drug abuse and AIDS.))

After my first, painfully drawn-out attempt* to explain the dissolution of the Spider-marriage, I realized that Marvel's lazy, lame method of undoing the marriage could actually benefit me. Now whenever anyone asks me what happened, I'll simply answer, "Magic." It's also the perfect response for any follow-up!
"I don't understand: What does magic have to do with their marriage ending?"
"I don't know, either. But it's magic; you don't have to understand!"
"But I thought Spider-Man was supposed to fight purse-snatchers and everyday criminals like that. How does magic even enter into it?"
"What, did Harry Potter screw up a spell or something?"
".... Sure, that's just about as good of an explanation as Marvel was able to come up with. Why not? Harry Potter accidentally erased Spider-Man's marriage via magic!"
Magic! It's the catch-all get-out-of-jail-free card!! Hey, I think I'll use it for my own excuses from now on! Um, here goes: I was going to have my "Best of 2007" post done by now, honest, but, uh, the devil made it so that none of the books I read last year ever came out, so now I have to go back and rewrite the whole thing. Gosh darn MAGIC! (Hey, this is kind of fun!)

* My wife saw a headline online somewhere and later asked me why Spider-Man got divorced. Stupidly, I tried to explain the whole thing, which quickly spiraled ever deeper into a head-hurting pit of dumbness:
"I saw online that Spider-Man got divorced. Why did he decide to end his marriage?"
"He didn't get divorced; he made a deal with the devil to save his aunt's life, which resulted in his marriage never happening in the first place."
"What?? I don't think I understood one word of what you just said. First of all, why did he need to save his aunt?"
"She was shot because Spider-Man had revealed his secret identity, so the bad guys knew who his family was."
"Why did he do that? Didn't he realize that his enemies would go after his friends and relatives?"
"Iron Man convinced him to reveal his identity."
"Iron Man? Who's he?"
"He's that rich guy who wears a suit of armor. Robert Downey, Jr., is playing him in the upcoming movie."
"Why did Iron Man think that it would be a good idea for Spider-Man to reveal who he was?"
"Because Iron Man is a dick. And also a Skrull."
"A what?"
"Forget it -- it's too complicated to get into."
"OK, so how did making a deal with the devil to save his aunt's life end his marriage?"
"The devil took Spider-Man and Mary Jane's marriage in exchange for keeping Aunt May alive."
"Their marriage? What does the devil want with someone's marriage? I thought he collected souls."
"I know, it doesn't make any sense. Basically the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics always thought it was a bad idea for Spider-Man to be married, so he came up with this idea to make Spider-Man single again."
"How do you take away someone's marriage, anyway?"
"I don't know. Somehow the devil rewrote reality so the marriage never happened."
"Never happened? So did he go back in time and prevent them from getting married?"
"I don't know. According to the comic sites I read, somehow the devil stops them from ever getting married, which also ends up changing a bunch of other stuff."
"Like what?"
"Oh, god. It's too much to get into. For one thing, one of his friends that died a long time ago is now alive again."
"How would Spider-Man not getting married bring his friend back to life?"
"I don't know, and apparently the writers don't know either. They're just using the deal with the devil as a blank check to make whatever changes they want. It gives me a headache if I actually try to figure it out."
"So why not just have him get divorced?"
"Because Marvel thought it would somehow make Spider-Man look bad."
"But they don't think that Spider-Man making a deal with the devil looks bad?"
"I know. I'm waiting for outraged parents who complained that the Harry Potter books promoted Satanism to pick up on this story. 'Spider-Man, Devil-Worshipper!!' would be an interesting controversy**."
"And do they think that divorce always reflects badly on the people involved? Couldn't it have been an amicable, mutually agreed-upon divorce?"
"I guess they thought Spider-Man having an ex-wife would be too much grown-up baggage for younger readers to relate to."
"But with divorce rates what they are, wouldn't most young readers be exposed to divorce? Wouldn't that make Spider-Man more relatable?"
"Maybe they thought it would age the character too much."
"How old is Spider-Man anyway?"
"In the comics? I don't know -- late 20s or early 30s, maybe?"
"And young adults never get divorced? Look at entertainment 'news' -- it's almost all gossip about which celebrities are getting married and divorced. They should have gone in the other direction and made Spider-Man's divorce as trashy and tawdry as possible! Say that Spider-Man was caught sleeping with Wonder Woman! Have there be all kinds of rumors circulating about illegitimate Spider-Babies crawling around! Insinuate that Spider-Man is gay!! It could have made him even more interesting to kids who follow the lives of 'stars' like Britney and Jessica Simpson."
"Well, his wife is a supermodel, so I guess they could have played up that angle and tried to cash in on that whole aspect of popular culture."
"See? I'm a genius! I should be writing these comic books!"
"Well, it does sound like you'd be able to come up with controversial plotlines guaranteed to piss off the fanboys and boost sales, which is pretty much all that's needed to write for Marvel these days. The only problem is I think Mark Millar already did this story over in The Ultimates..."
As fun as it was to imagine Spider-Man's divorce ending up on sites like TMZ or The Superficial, I quickly realized that I could not have this conversation every time someone was curious about Spidey's martial status, mainly because trying to explain the inane plot contrivances of storylines such as Civil War (which, admittedly, I'd only picked up on secondhand) would drive me crazy. So thanks for coming up with the easy out, Marvel!

** I've already mentally written the opening for the mainstream media's take on this sensationalistic story: "First they killed Captain America, the flag-clad Sentinel of Liberty. Then they turned the Hulk into a Commie. And now, in their latest controversial makeover, Marvel Comics is revealing that their most popular character Spider-Man is in league with Satan. 'This is worse than when they made Batman a lesbian,' complained a random person whose limited knowledge of superhero comics comes from poorly-researched articles like this one, but whom we nonetheless picked to provide the opening quote for this hastily thrown-together piece."

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Monday, January 14, 2008
Because Comics For Girls Are 'Special'

Others have already pointed out many of the problems with this Newsweek article on the growing female readership in comics, but I didn't see anyone comment on this annoying bit:
Manga, a Japanese style of comic featuring huge-eyed characters and often including elements of fantasy, has spawned a female-oriented subset, shoujo manga, some of which outsells regular manga. [emphasis added]
Huh? What the heck is "regular manga"? From the context, I'm guessing that the writer intended "regular manga" to mean "manga for males," but that's not "regular" manga, either: depending on the audience's age, it's either shonen or seinen manga. So nicely done, Newsweek! In an article purportedly about how comics are increasingly aimed at women, you still managed to reinforce the idea that, at their core, comics are really for men!

UPDATE: Over at her LiveJournal, Nenena rips into the same Newsweek article, pointing out a number of other annoyances and inaccuracies that I'd overlooked, including:
3. Manga is not a style of comic. It's just a comic. And only about half of Japan's manga output includes elements of fantasy, or even huge eyes.

4. Shojo manga is not a "subset" of manga. It's half of all manga.
Go read for even more astute observations, and links to several other posts I'd missed, including ones from I Am A Tree and ADD Theater, who both commented on the "regular manga" thing:
Saying shoujo manga was "spawned" from, and often outsells, this "regular manga" the article's author mentions, is like saying "women's health" spawned from "regular health." [Michelle]

'regular' manga? are we assuming that if something is 'for boys' it's 'regular' and if something is 'for girls', it's somehow not regular manga? We don't say that male orientated mystery novels sometimes outsell 'regular' books such as romance novels and chicklit. Really, maybe it's subtle sexism, but it's pretty annoying. [Shannon]

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008
The Quirky Charm of Gin Tama

As usual, David Welsh was right again: Gin Tama is an amusingly offbeat action/comedy manga. I've only read the first volume so far, but I was impressed enough by creator Hideaki Sorachi's madcap series to order the next three available volumes immediately. One of the high points of the series is the way in which characters derail dramatic scenes with irrelevant side commentary, often breaking the fourth wall in the process. Main character Sakata “Gin” Gintoki is most guilty of getting sidetracked like this during tense face-offs, usually to comment on his physical appearance:

Also entertaining is the interplay between the three main cast members, who frequently bicker and battle with each other. Here's a scene where Gin repeatedly criticizes cute but deadly Kagura for her ravenous appetite, only to suffer the consequences [click for super-sized spread, and remember to read right-to-left]:

It's the casual violence between co-workers that really makes the scene work.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008
Cosplaying for Keroro

Hey, did you know I was taking the rest of 2007 off from blogging? Neither did I! Oops, sorry about that. Assuming I don't drop off the face of the earth for another long stretch, I'm hoping to have my own "Best of 2007" list up soon. That is, if something I discovered just today doesn't eat up all of my free time. I'm talking, of course, about Tokyopop's Sgt. Frog Cosplay Contest! Now, normally I just point at cosplayers and laugh, but considering the prizes Tokyopop is offering for first place I might just have to swallow my pride and learn how to humiliate myself through sewing. Just look at this swag:
The first-place winner will capture an autographed Sgt. Frog Bind-up (Vols 1-3) by its famous creator Mine Yoshizaki, along with $100 worth of Sgt. Frog merchandise straight from Japan!
A hundred bucks of Sgt. Frog merchandise sounds nice until you realize that given the price of Japanese imports, that probably amounts to one little figurine (and one of a lame side character like Sumomo, at that). No, what really has me excited is the prospect of winning an autographed Sgt. Frog book by series creator Mine Yoshizaki. That's a really nice incentive.

So, any suggestions for which character I should be? Do you think I could get away with submitting the following photo and saying it's me?

Hmm. Maybe I'd have better luck trying to pass off one of the other Keroro Cosplay images I found via Google Image Search.

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