NotComics: Hurray! I’m Not Getting Dumber.

Chris' IQ ScoreLast night Canada got together and we collectively took an IQ test. The CBC (and Quaker Oats) presents: Test The Nation! A televised (and online) I.Q. test designed to figure out where all the smart people are in Canada. Blah blah blah, I.Q. tests are effectively useless at tracking your I.Q., but hey, it’s fun and it’s always nice to be validated. I scored a very respectable 130, so at least I’m as smart as I was when I was like… eight. In other complimentary news, Peter says my taste is much better since I’ve started working here :). So, it’s a good day for compliments.

You can take the test yourself at http://www.cbc.ca/testthenation/. Post your scores in the comments section if you like. 🙂

– Christopher

Reviews: A brief insight.

The nice thing about being assigned books to review is that you get to experience titles you might normally have never picked up, or even actively avoided. The nicer thing about this is the feeling of confidence you get in your own taste and aesthetic, knowing that you avoided a title for looking like crap and then it turning out to be far worse than you imagined. It’s kind of amazing.

Meanwhile, in the ‘books I am sadly not being paid to review’ dept., King City is exactly as good as I was hoping it would be, and possibly moreso. It’s totally worth running out and picking up. I got asked 5 or 6 times if it was any good this week at work, and now that I’ve read it I can answer with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’. Maybe if I finish the reviews I’m working on, I’ll do one of this too.

– Christopher

Shipping March 21st, 2007

Hi there folks. These are the comics that are scheduled to ship to The Beguiling Books & Art in Toronto, Canada this week. These books may not show up at all retailers at the same time, but if you see a title here it’s probably at least worth asking your local retailer about… 

…no time right now to do much in the way of commentary on these books, though there are some good ones in there. If things get a little lighter later in the day, I’ll come back and edit this space to include actual recommendations. The full list is after the cut, so click on the link:
Continue reading Shipping March 21st, 2007

BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH

It’s a bad time for established power structures, folks. Actually, for whatever reason “Beware the Ides of March” always reminds me of Jhonen Vasquez’ Johnny The Homicidal Maniac. I can’t remember which issue it is, but Johnny is unleashing the horror of knowledge on young Squee, and he utters the phrase “There’s so much to be afraid of.” So while you’re being wary of ides, here are some other, terrifying things to anticipate… with dread!

Artemis replaces Diana as Wonder WomanFEAR #1: The worst thing about The Death Of Superman wasn’t actually The Death Of Superman. Sure, it was a little purile and they had to ignore logic in order to make the story work, but as a rollicking yarn with a brutally depressing ending, it was alright. No, the thing that was truly, utterly terrible about The Death Of Superman was the onslaught of similar, attention-seeking moves that followed.

We’re going to break Batman’s spine! And replace him with a new Batman!

Like Wonder Woman? Too fucking bad, she’s been replaced by a younger version with bigger boobs!

Your Green Lantern is now a psychopath. Instead, here’s a new one. We just killed his girlfriend!

WE CUT OFF AQUAMAN’S HAND!!! Uh, anybody? Hello? Doesn’t anybody care?

…and so on. So yeah, now that we have The Death Of Captain America, I’m not so much fearful of the return to speculator-driven comics, I’m more worried about the Spider-Man and Power Pack Public Service Announcement comics going from them warning kids about the danger of child abuse to Spidey actually fiddling with the Power Pack. Fuck, I bet that’d make headlines on CNN.

FEAR #2: Soon all blogs will be link-blogs, and then what will they link to? I got a press release today about AOL’s new comics link blog, Comics Alliance. It seems to be 50% reworded press releases, 45% linking to other sites, and 5% original content (though the hot topless dudes are always appreciated). That’s pretty close to the Newsarama and The Beat mixes, with Journalista being 95% linking and Comics Reporter sitting at around 75% linking, and these are more or less the most popular comics blogs out there. The other thing is, whenever anyone at more-or-less any blog or site comes up with a decent piece of original content or thinking, everyone links it. Who linkblogs the linkbloggers? THEY DO. Spurgeon called it at San Diego, what the ‘comics internet’ needs more of is actual content; Jog can’t do it all by himself. Get to work, people!

Rival Schools Fan YaoiFEAR #3: What if the second floor of the store caves in? I’m up here like 50 hours a week. We just put up two more bookcases of manga here at The Beguiling. 80cm Billy bookcases, making for another 40 linear feet of manga. ***Slurp*** The manga ate that up like it was there all along. They’re releasing like 2 and a half  feet of manga a week. A week. This place is solidly built, but how are we supposed to deal with that? Start “not carrying” certain series? Poppycock! But… It is worrying. As is every creak in the floor.

Also, I counted? I think there are now 225 different Yaoi titles in print. YEAH. So much for that “niche”. All your shelf space are belong to boys humping boys. Be afraid.

FEAR #4: No one has good information. The one thing I took away from the New York Comic Con is that no one’s information about the comics industry and its future is any better than anyone else’s. Some people have more, some people have less, some people are knowledgable in different areas, but no one has the ‘key’. The entire industry is operating on a lot of best guesses. I don’t know about you, but I find that terrifying.

It does level the playing field a little though.

So, BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH and the ides of the rest of the year for that matter. And feel free to tell me what’s scaring you, these days.

– Christopher

Housekeeping!

– I don’t know why you’d be browsing my site at 11pm on a Saturday night, but if you are? Remember that Daylight Savings Time is all stupid this year (it’s actually pretty stupid most of the time), and that it actually takes place at 2am Sunday morning (about three hours from right now). So, you lose an hour of sleep, but you gain… darkness when you get out of work? Sigh. Remember, spring forward!

– I haven’t forgotten about the Casanova Reviews. The problem, aside from my schedule sort of falling apart, was that the text piece in the back of issue 7 is pretty intense, and has forced me to reconsider the last few issues of the first series. So, I’m gonna read the whole thing again, start-to-finish, and give it another go this week.

– Chris Mautner of the Panels and Pixels blog interviewed me a little while back for an article he was writing on yaoi for The Patriot News in Pennsylvania. You can find it online now, and it’s called “Brokeback Manga”. For better or worse, I seem to be the pre-eminent retail representative of yaoi in North America, or at least the only one willing to go on record to discuss it, and so I offer the surprising retail views that a) Yaoi is selling well, and b) it can’t stay out of the harsh, disapproving glare of the public forever. Chris is a great guy and I was happy to be a part of the article (which turned out great, actually), but my complete lack of interest in revisiting stupid yaoi controversy will see me avoiding follow-up on some of the more questionable assertions on the part of Yaoi fans in the article…

– Speaking of me, and Media, I don’t think I linked to it but Mangacast has a podcast of the first panel I was on at the New York Comic Con, “The buyers panel”. Apparently, I’m very funny in it, and there’s a bunch of great info in it anyway. Go check it out.

– I think I’m going to write about it more in a little while, but for the time being check out Brigid’s interview with Fanfare/Ponent-Mon publisher Stephen Robson at Mangablog.

– Aside from some review writing, I’m blissfully free of obligations for the next little while, so I should be able to keep the blog posts coming with some regularity. It’s pretty depressing to go a day or two without blogging, let alone a week or whatever. Oh, speaking of which, I’m about half-done a complete wrap-up of the New York Comic Con. Does anyone have any interest in seeing it at this point, or no?

Thanks,

– Christopher

Shipping March 14th, 2007

Hi there folks. These are the comics that are scheduled to ship to The Beguiling Books & Art in Toronto, Canada this week. These books may not show up at all retailers at the same time, but if you see a title here it’s probably at least worth asking your local retailer about… 

A Late Freeze

JAN073653 A LATE FREEZE 6.50
I was lucky enough to have the creator of this book, Danica Novgorodoff, send a copy to the store for me to take a look at. I’m really glad I did too, because this “mini-comic”, a full-colour, full-length dreamlike story, is absolutely excellent. The winner of the “Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics,” A Late Freeze is all about lost love and family and is really beautifully illustrated and realised. If all of my effusive praise isn’t enough for you to track down a copy for yourself, you can check out some strips from the book online at the author’s website, http://www.danicanovgorodoff.com.

American Elf Volume 2DEC063936 AMERICAN ELF VOL 2 COLL SKETCHBOOK DIARIES OF JAMES KOCHALKA 19.95
The book we were all kind of worried would never be published! This second collection of James Kochalka’s fantastic diary comics weighs in a bit less than the previous collection (Volume 2 collects 2 years of strips to the first volume’s 5-or-so) but I don’t think it’s an exageration to say that this material is his best work. While Kochalka may actively be trying to shine a light on the nature of art and comics in his more formal productions, it’s the small illuminations that dot his sketchbook diaries that really speak work for me.

JAN070051 BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #1 2.99
…if you think retailers ‘under-ordered’ Captain America… Seriously, the only saving grace is that the press on this book has been a slow, consistant build and is unlikely to get the blitz that the ‘death’ did. But I have a feeling that this book will be just as tough to find, in its way.

OCT061854 COMPLETE INVINCIBLE LIBRARY VOL 1 HC 125.00
OCT061855 COMPLETE INVINCIBLE LIBRARY VOL 1 LTD ED SGN HC (C 175.00
You know, I actually really like Invincible and am buying this series in Hardcover, more for readability and durability than not, but I don’t actually think the material warrants this sort of collection. It’s fun, pulpy, well-done superhero material, but this kind of retrospective presentation is generally reserved for works that have… you know… stood the test of time. It’s a pretty audacious move at the very least. I probably shouldn’t say anything at all here, and I don’t begrudge the creative team the mortgage payment or two that they’re going to make with this thing, but even Kirby’s work doesn’t get this kind of treatment.

King City VOl 1 TPJAN073850 KING CITY VOL 1 GN (OF 3) (MR) 9.99
A Direct-Market exclusive! You won’t find this one in your Borders or Barnes & Noble. Honestly, it’s because they didn’t think they would sell any of it, but then they’ve got pretty specific ideas about what works and what doesn’t. Let’s try and prove them wrong, shall we?

King City is the new graphic novel series by Brandon Graham, a very talented young artist who’s been floating around the periphery of alternative comics for quite some time. The most easy-to-find collection of his work is Elevator, a bunch of short stories collected into a very handsome little book by Alternative Comics. King City is his first long-form work, and I’m really curious to see how Graham works in this format, let alone within the constraints of Tokyopop’s OEL line (which I’m not foolish enough to get into right now). Publisher’s Weekly put an eight-page preview of the book online, and I gotta say it looks pretty great. Gives me a lot of hope. Graham is a contemporary of Bryan Lee O’Malley and L0cke, as well as a member of the Meathaus group with Farel Dalrymple, Becky Cloonan, and James Jean, amongst others. I guess what I’m getting at is that I Think This Might Be A Very Good Book, cuz it reads well, has a great concept (cat-as-weapon-of-mass-destruction), and has a pedigree, if you will.

Don’t miss out.

OCT063730 STREET FIGHTER LEGENDS VOL 1 SAKURA TP 11.95
APR063425 STREET FIGHTER VOL 1 TP NEW EDITION 9.99
APR063426 STREET FIGHTER VOL 2 TP NEW EDITION 13.99
MAY063447 STREET FIGHTER VOL 3 FIGHTERS DESTINY TP 13.99
I’ve got a bigger post on this, but I just wanted to give props to my buddies at UDON because their new trades look fantastic. They’re on way better paper, and seriously, the books are so much sharper looking than before and twice as thick. The material is not to everyone’s tastes (heh, no, really?) but if you want to see Chun-Li kicking some dudes in the face, it has never looked better.

JUN063096 TIMES OF BOTCHAN VOL 3 GN (OF 10) 19.99
Just a heads-up, really, as if you’re not already reading this story by Jiro Taniguchi about Japan opening it’s bordered to the West at the turn of the last century, you probably won’t start doing so now. You totally should, of course, because it’s surprisingly wonderful and the narrative antithesis of pretty-much anything else on the book shelf, but… yeah.

OCT063547 TOWN OF EVENING CALM, COUNTRY OF CHERRY BLOSSOMS GN 9.99
This right here? This is one of those important manga that you hear about every once in a while. Two short stories about the after-effects of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, years after the blast. I’ve already had the good fortune to read this and it’s absolutely incredible. Look for a review soon, but if you do happen to see it while you’re at the shop this week, pick it up.

And that’s it for this week!

Click on the link below to see the full list: 

Continue reading Shipping March 14th, 2007

PSA: Threadless $10 Spring Broke Sale

Books Are Good For You T-Shirt Design at Threadless.com

Books Are Good For You T-shirt design by Nury Lee at Threadless.com. 

Just as we’re all clibming out from Christmas Debts, one of my fav online t-shirt designers Threadless has to go and have a $10 sale. Most of their excellent, democratically produced T-Shirts are now just 10 bucks, which is too good to pass up. I personally wanted a couple which are already sold out, and the sale only lasts until Monday the 12th, so hurry your buns up and visit http://www.threadless.com. They even have a handy stock chart that you can search by size, to see what’s available in your preferred fit. Ginchy!

By the way, I’m not affiliated with Threadless or anything, and this is clearly not a comics post. I just like T-Shirts with the slogan “I’m A Noun!” on them is all. And so should you.

– Christopher

Toronto Cartoonist Wins Canadian Urban Leadership Award

Toronto Cartoonist Matthew Blackett is best known around town as Matt B, who (until recently) chronicled life in the T-dot in his weekly comic strip for Eye Magazine, http://mattbcomic.com/. More recently though, he’s become known as the founder of Spacing magazine, and his contributions to city life have just recently been recognized by The Canadian Urban Institute.

Matt B has been awarded an Urban Leadership Award in the “City Soul” category, and while I’m not entirely sure what that actually means, it sounds pretty impressive (particularly when you look at the company he’s keeping). It’s not surprising though, as Matt and Spacing have really changed political discourse in the city, and alongside organisations like The Toronto Public Space Comittee (which he’s also on) they’ve made a positive impact on our day-to-day. All because in his 3-panel comic strips many years ago, he really loved the city he lived in (or at least loved it enough to want to make it better).

Spacing Magazine #8Matt B is also one of the best self-promoters I’ve ever met, and please believe me when I say that’s meant as a compliment. He used to organise these great big launch parties every time he released a new issue of his self-published comic strip collections (you might call them “mini-comics”). Bands would play, money would be raised, comics would be sold, and it would all go back into building his brand, which would then help us as a retailer sell his graphic novel collection. It’s amazing, and a course of action that I wish more… if not every… self publisher or small press would follow themselves. Hell, it’s what we as a store have started doing with our own events (see: the Scott Pilgrim/Dinosaur Comics Launch). Matt also helped us launch the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in 2003, helping to secure the best bit of press we received. (See also: above, right).

So, yeah, I’m really happy to see the work that Matt’s doing recognized, even if it isn’t in cartooning. I think there’s a similar mindset of really wanting to reach people with his message that’s carried through all of his projects, and he certainly worked hard enough for the success he’s achieved. Congrats, sir!

– Christopher

Never Safe For Work