Sporadic Sequential
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Hot Online Monkey Sex

Over at Manga Xanadu, Lori Henderson praises Viz's recent forays into digital distribution of content. Like Lori, I think Viz has done a nice job of putting together their online manga reader. I know some are critical of the Flash interface, but I find it unobtrusive and smooth. Best of all, the art and lettering stays crisp and readable no matter how I resize the viewer (something that doesn't work very well on other companies' online offerings, such as Marvel's digital comics, which always look jagged and rough no matter what resolution I view them in). I also like that Viz's viewer allows you to use the left and right arrow keys to navigate through their manga.

In other online manga news, Top Shelf is offering a 22-page preview of Love's Bride, a Yoshihiro Tatsumi story that will be appearing in the upcoming Ax anthology. It's more of a straight-forward, old school presentation, meaning it's a series of static images that you can't resize rather than a dynamic Flash viewer (which some people will prefer but I dislike, especially when trying to read on my laptop). And the preview cuts off midstory, so we never get to see the pathetically lonely loser put the brassiere and panties on the female monkey he busted out of the zoo and have sex with it. (Man, and I thought the sex scene with Lassie in Abandon the Old in Tokyo was disturbing.)

There are no losers like Tatsumi losers.

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Friday, May 22, 2009
Hooray for Viz!

Viz's new online "magazine" Ikki seems like a really cool idea. Basically it's a way for Viz to promote new series but they're doing so by letting customers read entire series (one chapter a month) online for free. I'm a little unclear on the details (for example, Viz says "[a]fter the completion of the online serialization of a volume, that volume will become available as a VIZ Signature graphic novel, subject to reader demand" but it doesn't specify how reader demand will be determined), but Viz is calling this a soft launch with the full roll-out scheduled for August, so I'll hold off more thorough questioning until then.

In the meantime, enjoy the first chapter of Daisuke Igarashi's engrossing Children of the Sea. And what a meaty first chapter it is: 68 pages of beautifully illustrated intrigue.

OK, one more question: How will Viz finish serializing a volume's worth of Children of the Sea online if the first book comes out July 21st and it's 320 pages long? Perhaps June and July's chapters will be even longer than 68 pages? Or maybe the "online serialization complete before it sees print" sequence of events only applies to subsequent series, not Children of the Sea? ANSWER: As Greg

OK, last question, I promise: Is Bokurano basically Gantz but with mecha and even younger kids?

OK, last one, I swear: Any chance Viz will serialize Wombs? And does anyone know if the series is really about what it looks like, a militaristic future state where the abortion debate has gotten so intense that pro-choice and anti-abortion factions have literally gone to war over women's wombs?

OK, this isn't a question at all, so back off: To see what other Ikki series you'd like to see Viz offer here, be sure to poke around the Japanese Ikki site where you can see short samples of the various series. This and this look especially interesting to me. Anime News Network has more info about the latter series, and Ed Chavez wrote about it for Otaku USA. ANN and Wikipedia also have (incomplete) lists of some of the series that have run in Ikki, and I'd love to see Happiness by Usamaru Furuya picked up by Viz, and online distribution seems like a perfect fit for these shorter one-shots if there's not enough material to fill out an entire print volume..

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Thursday, May 21, 2009
Separated at Birth? Japanese Hipster, Meet American Hipster

OK, so it's really the top part that's similar, but seeing the cover of Inio Asano's upcoming What a Wonderful World made me think immediately of the cover of Daniel Clowes' Ghost World. Who knows what other eerie similarities the two books will share?

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Monday, May 18, 2009
Yen Press To Re-Release Yotsuba Volumes 1-5

My blog-fu has been week lately, so I apologize if this is already widely known but it looks like Yen Press has acquired the license to re-release the first five volumes of Yotsuba (previously published by ADV). Yen's Yotsuba series page now lists eight volumes, with the first five all showing a September 2009 release date. And on Amazon the first five volumes show a Sept. 15, 2009, which is also when volume 6 is supposed to come out. So I hereby christen Sept. 15, 2009 as Yotsuba day!!

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Thursday, May 14, 2009
Introducing The Newest Muppet Character, Mr. Cthulhu!

Here's something fun to try on the BOOM! Kids site:
  1. Go to the BOOM! Kids Blog.
  2. Type 'muppets' in the search box in the upper right-hand corner.
  3. Press <ENTER>
  4. Order one of the first three items on the product search results page for your young child.
  5. Wake up repeatedly throughout the night to reassure your child that the octopus-faced monster isn't going to come get him.
Looks like BOOM! still has some work to do in keeping their two sites separate.

UPDATE 4:00 PM: Looks like BOOM fixed whatever was causing the problem. No more search results from the BOOM Kids site being redirected to the main BOOM site. Although you can still see the incongruous search results for "Muppets" on the main site.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I Buy My Superhero Comics By The 100s

It all started with Wednesday Comics. Last week I was intrigued enough by the creative format and formidable creative line-up for DC's upcoming Wednesday Comics weekly to consider making actual pilgrimages to a local comic shop to pick up the oversized fold-out comics. But then my cheap bargain-hunting side kicked in and I realized I could probably score these comics cheaper online. So I searched around and found that my old online shop DCBS had the first issue of Wednesday Comics for 75% off and the second for 50% off. The third and the fourth issues were each discounted a respectable 40% off.

Of course, I could have simply ordered those four comics and left it at that, but, no, I had to go poking around the monthly specials section, so now this is what I ended up ordering:
  • AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #600 - $2.49
  • CITIZEN REX #1 - $1.75
  • CREEPY COMICS #1 - $2.49
  • GREEK STREET #1 - $0.25
  • INCREDIBLE HULK #600 - $2.49
  • INCREDIBLES #0 - $1.64
  • WEDNESDAY COMICS #1 - $0.99
  • WEDNESDAY COMICS #2 - $1.99
  • WEDNESDAY COMICS #3 - $2.39
  • WEDNESDAY COMICS #4 - $2.39
Yes, in addition to DC's Wednesday Comics I broke down and ordered two Marvel comics. What can I say? I'm a sucker for divisible-by-100 anniversary issues. (In fact, I think ASM #500 was the last issue of ASM I bought.) I almost passed on Hulk #600 since it's written by Jeph Loeb and I can't recall reading too many positive reviews of his work (both in general and on Hulk specifically). But what the heck? For $2.49 I can ignore the dumb story and just focus on the pretty art by Ed McGuiness.

I'm also trying out a couple other books that sound interesting, like Dark Horse's Citizen Rex by Mario and Gilbert Hernandez and their new Creepy anthology. (I was also thinking of checking out DH's Noir anthology GN but it doesn't actually ship until the end of September so I'll wait and see if I'm still interested by then.) I'm also getting the first issue of Greek Street, a new Vertigo ongoing, partially because I've always been fond of Greek drama but mainly because it was only a quarter after the discount.

The Incredibles comics are for my daughter, who loves that movie. (She now wants us to have another kid so we can have someone to be Jack-Jack when she plays "Incredibles.") And depending on how bleak or decadent ASM #600 is, I may give that to my daughter after I'm done reading it. She's really into cutting things up with scissors lately, so I figure she can have fun with the floppy rather than me having to worry about storing it. (Plus, I like the idea of her using her scissors to rearrange the comic randomly, perhaps creating a more satisfying continuity than the one Marvel came up with in OMD/BND.)

Finally, there's the real steal of the whole deal, the hardcover collection of Tales Designed to Thrizzle for half-off! Woot! (Check out the Flickr set for the book here.)

Also, the folks at DCBS were kind enough to let me append a couple items from the April 2009 Previews to this order, which was great because I don't know where else I would have been able to get the new black-and-white Nexus collection for such a great price (45% off). It doesn't look like the major book sites (like Amazon or BN.com) are carrying this yet.

Oh, and one final tip: If you're new to DCBS or haven't ordered from them for at least a year, use coupon code disc8 when you place your order for an additional 8% off. That might not sound like much but for me it was almost enough to cover the flat-rate shipping charge of $5.95. (The fact that I can edit my order until June 1st is dangerous. Since it's flat-rate shipping no matter how many items are in my order, I may be tempted to add more comics as I hear about them. Hey, this whole Marvel Divas thing sounds interesting, and DCBS has it for only $1.99...)

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Sunday, May 10, 2009
The Mystery of the Missing Manga Mother

I was thinking of mothers in manga today, spurred by David Welsh's Twitter topic of #mangamoms. I was thinking that Ranma's mother must fall into the same "absent mother" category so many other series belong to, although I noticed that neither Ranma nor Genma (his father) ever brought her up, so she wasn't really a motivating factor in terms of either character or plot. And then this afternoon I happened to read Ranma ½ volume 20, which features the return of Ranma's long-lost mother, Nodoka Saotome. It turns out Ranma never knew his mother; his father, fearing that a mother's nurturing would weaken the boy, removed Ranma from their home and began his strict martial arts training at a very young age. And Genma never mentioned Nodoka because he had made a promise to her that if he failed in toughening up Ranma to become a true "man among men" then both he and the boy would commit seppuku. Given Ranma's condition, Genma had reason to worry.

It was a fun story, and an interesting coincidence to run across it on Mother's Day. Rumiko Takahashi came up with an inventive way to dramatize (or is that satirize?) the tension that frequently exists between grown children and their mothers. Obviously, Ranma wants his mother's approval, but his fears that her disappointment will take an especially harsh tone cause him to hide the truth from her. Rather than be open and honest with his mother, he crafts a convenient lie that he thinks will be easier for her (and him) to bear. Ah, fiction has such a wonderful way of exposing what is often ignored or suppressed in real life.

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Friday, May 08, 2009
The Subtle Pleasures of Well-Written Solicitations

Whoever writes the solicitation copy for Dark Horse Comics deserves a raise. While the solicitation blurbs from other publishers can be a drag, Dark Horse always manages to make their marketing copy entertaining. Here are some of my favorite bits from DH's August 2009 solicits:
  • CITIZEN REX #2 (of 6) - "It's Astro Boy meets Mister X by way of David Lynch, as only Los Bros. could do it!" I was just thinking the issue's description sounded a lot like Viz's Pluto series when DH basically came out and acknowledged it. And the high-concept "it's X meets Y by way of Z" pitch actually makes me want to read the series. (The fact that it's written and drawn by one of these guys also helps.)

  • THE GROO TREASURY VOLUME 1 - Basically, the whole solicit is worth reading ("If you've ever wondered what this Groo character is all about, tried to untangle his early publishing history yourself, or wondered what exactly it is that Mark Evanier does for this book, wait no longer!"), but I especially liked this helpful tidbit at the end: "Featuring the absolute latest in Stan Sakai-generated logo design!" Always nice to see designers / letterers getting the credit they deserve.

  • STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS #8 - "Clone Wars action on ice!" I'm betting whoever wrote that totally meant to invoke images of Star Wars characters executing elaborately choreographed routines while wearing figure skates.

  • THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS - "It's the X-Men for cool people." ...said Grant Morrison, former writer on the X-Men. Which begs the question: Who are the X-Men for? Nerds? (And: Was Grant Morrison not cool when he wrote the X-Men?)

  • WEREWOLVES ON THE MOON: VERSUS VAMPIRES #3 (of 3) - "Features fan-favorite werewolves AND vampires now in an all-new lunar setting!" Werewolves & vampires now new-and-improved!!
In addition to snazzy-sounding copy, the DH solicits are fun to read because they don't rely on just sheer hucksterism to peddle their merchandise; they also provide interesting factoids (including actual sales figures for books (did you know that "[s]ince rekindling the Conan franchise in 2004, Dark Horse has sold over 350,000 Conan graphic novels!"?) and site traffic figures for webcomics properties) and quotes from a variety of sources (who knew Keanu Reeves' character from The Matrix was such a fan of Oh My Goddess!?) to generate interest in their books. If only all publishers were this entertaining and professional with their marketing material.

EDIT: Just looked at some of the actual "on sale" dates and although these are listed as solicits for items coming out in August 2009, some of the books won't actually come out until September or October (or, in the case of Gantz 8 and the Groo Treasury, November). So be aware of that if you were thinking of preordering any of these books because some items could hold up your order longer than others!

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And Now, The Best-Reviewed, Lowest-Selling Book of 2008

A while back I finally read the most controversial book of 2008, Love and Rockets: New Stories #1. (Seriously, wasn't this the book that was at the heart of the Great Bookscan Debate of 2008? And I seem to remember seeing it invoked in the recent kerfuffle over the viability of DM sales.) It's an interesting experiment, releasing about four issues worth of floppies in a single, square-bound collection for fifteen bucks. Something about it reminded me of The Comics Journal itself — it seemed more like an upscale magazine with a sturdier cover than a typical trade paperback. (The ads in the back may have been a big factor in my impression: It's a little odd to see ads for local comic shops in a trade paperback, and the ads look a lot like the ones I remember seeing in TCJ.)

Anyway, enough about the format; what did I think about the actual content? In a way, the book suffers from the typical problem with anthologies: The styles and subject matter that the Hernandez brothers work in are so different that it's a bit jarring to move from stories about superheroines to surreal tales of an old knock-off comedy duo slaughtering an entire alien population. Don't get me wrong, I love both Jaime's and Gilbert's work, but they're odd counterparts for each other. (Part of this might be due to the way I learned to appreciate the Hernandez brothers myself, by reading their respective works in those oversized hardcovers. For me, the works of the Hernandez brothers are separate and distinct.) I assume long-time fans of the brothers will be fine with this eclectic mix, but I wonder how new readers would react to the diverse assortment.

Jaime's entry, a two-part story revolving around a bunch of oddball superheroines, was my favorite in the bunch. A big part of that is his incredible artwork — just check out this amazing sequence where Alarma takes out two robots by using a defunct third as a projectile:

I love everything about those three panels: The simplicity of the composition; the fluid motion of the actors; and the wonderfully expressive body language of Alarma. (I love the way she rights herself in panel two after making a big throw and the "YES!!!" pose in the final panel.)

The concept is also incredibly amusing: It's like a huge riff on what might have happened if superhero comics started their evolutionary path by focusing on more female-centered concerns instead of testosterone-fueled fisticuffs. (Oh, there's still plenty of fighting, but it all has a very different tone from your standard Marvel or DC slugfest. How many "hero vs. hero" misunderstandings can you think of that have been resolved with tears and a group hug?)

Gilbert's contributions are hard to describe, mainly because they are so surreal. They really have to be experienced and interpreted on your own. (I certainly can't begin to tell you what's going on in the dream-like "?") But I did want to share the following panel, mainly because it reminds me of something straight out of a Kazuo Umezu horror manga:

Be sure to check out some of the other reviews linked to on the book's product page. In particular, Jeff Lester and Matt Brady do a good job of spicing up their reviews with plenty of images, so you'll get an even better idea of the incredible artwork that populates this book. And Fantagraphics has set up their own Flickr set of images, so there are even more samples to peruse and whet your appetite!

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Thursday, May 07, 2009
The Two-Chapter Test Is The Online Equivalent Of My Two-Volume Test For Print Manga

So the third chapter of RIN-NE doesn't come out until next week but I was wondering what everyone thinks of the series so far. I know only two chapters are available at the moment, but have you read enough to decide if you like it or not? I'm especially curious to know if anyone plans to buy the collected edition at this point:

Personally, I'm leaning toward stopping following the online chapters and just waiting for the collected edition. Short chapters every week are just too much (too little?) for my middle-aged brain to keep up with. Plus, I'm still partial to the tactile experience of reading actual printed material. (One of the main reasons I don't follow scanlations or webcomics despite the awesome price point.)

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Buyer's Remorse

In the comments thread of yesterday's post, Augie De Blieck Jr. remarked that he couldn't believe he bought Maximum Fantastic Four, an expensive coffee-table examination of Fantastic Four #1. Which got me to wondering: What comic-related purchases do you most regret? For me, the first thing that comes to mind is all the hardcover DC Archives I own. I let a combination of misplaced nostalgia and completist mentality compel me to buy way too many of these books, most of which sit unread, taking up precious shelf space.

How about you? What purchases do you wish you could go back in time and undo? (Also: Anyone interested in buying some old DC Archives, cheap?)

UPDATE: Over on Twitter, Martin Kretschmer brought up an interesting flipside to this question. Namely, What comics do you most regret selling? For me, that's an easy one: I really, really, really regret selling off my full set of Miracleman trade paperbacks. Not only because I foolishly sold them for mere cover price, but because they're books I'd actually like to re-read every once and awhile.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Wednesday Post on Wednesday Comics

Here's something that might actually get me to go out of my way and visit a local comics shop: José Luis García-López is now handling the artistic duties on the Metal Men feature in DC's upcoming Wednesday Comics (via Mike Sterling, who has a scan of a great Garcia-López-illustrated Metal Men sequence from DC Comics Presents #4).

I've been curious about Wednesday Comics ever since details about the project first started to leak. It's certainly a bold move on DC's part, experimenting with the format in a way I can't recall a comics publisher trying before ("a 16-page weekly that unfolds to a sprawling 28" x 20" tabloid-sized reading experience bursting with mind-blowing color, action and excitement, with each feature on its own 14" x 20" page"). And the creative talent that's lined up is pretty impressive: Paul Pope, Neil Gaiman, Michael Allred, Kyle Baker, etc. In fact, every name that was added to the project only seemed to increase the appeal of the comic. That is, until the official solicitation came out and this was revealled, buried at the bottom in an almost embarrassed "one of these things is not like the other" manner:
* METAL MEN, written by Dan DiDio with Art by Ian Churchill (SUPERGIRL)
That single credit was enough to kill my interest in the project. Look, I don't care how groovy it is to see Paul Pope on Adam Strange or Mike Allred on Metamorpho (two of my all-time favorite artists on two of my favorite C-list DC characters!), I am not going to buy a comic that contains any art by Ian Churchill. So I'm very glad that DC made this creative team change-up. Curiously, the announcement doesn't mention the fact that Churchill was the original artist on the Metal Men strip, nor has the credit info been updated on DC's site. Hopefully Garcia-López is replacing Churchill right from the get-go, otherwise I'll be putting that copy of Wednesday Comics #1 right back on the shelf. (If Garcia-López doesn't start handling the art until later in the series, someone let me know when it happens, OK? Because I really need to see Mercury's new afro-tastic swingin' seventies human disguise in its full-color glory. It's almost as good as this.)

It's true: Everything's better with afros!

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Friday, May 01, 2009
It's The Classic Shopper's Dilemma All Over Again

TFAW is having a Spring Cleaning Sale with progressive discounts every week:
Starting May 1st, you'll save 50% off a bunch of toys, comics, graphic novels, statues, and other collectibles. May 10th, you'll begin to save 60% off! May 17th, you'll start saving 70% off remaining stock + hundreds of new additions. Finally, starting May 24th, you'll save 80% off!
As they note, quantities are limited, so the gamble you face is: Do I wait a couple more weeks for the discount to go up with the risk that the item I want will sell out? I already see a couple items I want so I'm struggling with that very dilemma myself.

And here are a couple new coupon codes to help with shipping costs:
  • CLEANUP - $5 off $50+ (expires 5/31/09)
  • ROCKOUT - Free domestic shipping on orders $25+ (expires 5/31/09)
Of course, I love the irony of a "spring cleaning" sale that will just result in an even messier office for me.

* Also, if you place your order tomorrow on Free Comic Book Day, TFAW will throw in three free comics, but they're ones that probably won't interest non-superhero, non-licensed-sci-fi-properties fans.

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It's Always Embarrassing When Company Reps Respond So Rationally To My Ill-Considered Screeds

Jane Lui, PR & Events Manager at Viz, was kind enough to send me the following note further explaining the delays with RIN-NE's weekly release schedule:
We wanted to empahsize that the publication schedule for RIN-NE is following the WEEKLY SHONEN SUNDAY publishing schedule. The next issue of WEEKLY SHONEN SUNDAY (Vol. 23) will street on May 2nd, with the following issue streeting on May 13th - the issue that RIN-NE debuted in was a double issue (Vol. 21-22), to cover for the extra time between issues. The Golden Week holidays in Japan, running from April 29th through May 6th, tends to throw things off a bit - the WEEKLY SHONEN SUNDAY schedule in this case was shifted a little.
I appreciate Jane taking the time to respond to my (grumpy, fan-entitled) post. I was tickled to learn that last week's issue of Weekly Shonen Sunday was double-sized in order to account for the Golden Week publishing gap. It reminds me of the double issues that magazines like The New Yorker and EW put out to handle "skip weeks" here in the States. Jane's note also reinforced the "simultaneous release" aspect of this project over the "weekly updates" element: If there's no material published in Japan, it doesn't make sense to expect there to be material released here in the U.S. So for now I'll just wait patiently for the next installment of RIN-NE and pass the time by reading the many volumes of Ranma piling up on my nightstand!

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