New. Now. Next.

Hey comics fans! Are you excited for 2016 yet? How about this winter? This fall?  Probably, because between today’s Image Expo, this week’s Fall/Winter reveal by Alternative Comics, and Tuesday’s ‘reveal’ of 45 outta 60 new Marvel titles, it’s pretty clear that the discourse is focused squarely on ‘things to come’ in the comics biz–and I think that’s actually a huge, huge problem that no one is talking about.

A little bit of history: Once upon a time, in the late 90s and early aughts, I ran a site called Previews Review, where I would go through the Previews catalogue and pick the stuff that I thought was best, occasionally with my pals James and Scott joining me for it. I did this in the hopes of imploring the reader (you) to think about their buying decisions 2-3 months in advance, so that you (the reader) would go to your local comic book shop and ask them to order those books in. Basically, during this time period and following the Valiant/Image busts of the mid 90s, comic book retailers were even more conservative and hewed even more closely to ordering Marvel & DC exclusively than they do now. Demanding pre-orders wasn’t just a tool in the toolbox for creators and small pubs working outside of the big two, it was a necessity if they wanted their books ordered at all! I became very focused (along with lots of other industry types) on the books that were on the shelves 2, 3, 4 months away. Books, companies, whole careers eventually thrived because they could effectively work this system of direct fan involvement into influencing overall retailer orders, particularly some smart retailers who could see which way the wind was blowing (Tokyopop and Viz had just started blowing up in bookstores, and the audience for comics overall was diversifying).

Of course, if you’re imploring customers to pre-order their purchases months in advance, then the sales component is attached to that advance press, and the system works! The ‘sale’ is made and you just maintain that forward-looking focus. But during my professional comics career I’ve seen that change though, from companies putting their press-weight behind books coming out that week or month, shifting it to the Previews catalogue 2 months ahead, all the way to this week’s Image/Marvel/Alternative Comics type announcements looking 6 months out or more.  I can tell you, the idea of your average fan knowing what was going to happen in their superhero universe after a big event crossover? It didn’t happen, until perhaps the last issue of that crossover was in stores. It’s something that was almost non-existent back in the 90s, and entirely commonplace today.

I think for further proof of this, you can look at comics retailers bitching that the Previews catalogue has gotten less useful as it’s moved from being a retailer tool to a reader tool. I’m on board in some cases–I think Image’s recent decision to pull solicitation text out of the catalogue almost entirely is a problem. Image has pulled solicit text and promotion from the catalogue for most of their titles, and the catalogue is the time at which retailers are actually ordering comic books, in favour of disseminating information online and through fan sites. It’s a bad move, giving retailers with an order form in front of them less information. Marvel and DC are no better, with their solicitations of projects with the ostensible creators of those projects “To Be Determined.” A title announced before there’s a story, a product offered before there’s anyone to make it.

(And I do want to be clear, there were other factors that led to this forward-looking change. First, the comics-related movies shifted focus forward a little, as that industry influenced (and continues to influence) publishing and creative decisions for many projects. Perhaps the largest though is the integration of the comics industry with the book market, which works between 6 months and 18 months in advance. The success of comics outside of traditional comics venues really did cause publishers to need to work and schedule further in advance in many cases. But if I had to pin it to one thing, it would be the discourse around looking at the Previews catalogue and beyond, and the explosion of fan-sites and blogs at that time all toeing the party line regarding preorders really kickstarting the whole thing, in my humble opinion.)

I think where this really became a problem is when the act of moving that ‘comics conversation’ ever-forward was divorced from the act of consumers being aggressively encouraged to pre-order that material. We’re now getting announcements, really BIG announcements with tons of press, for titles and books that we won’t even be able to order for months, let alone actually purchase and put into our hands. Anecdotally, we’re getting customers coming into the store on the reg asking for a book to be added to their pull-list before it’s in the catalogue, thanks to online announcements. We’re happy to try to accommodate those requests, but All-Star Wonder Woman has been sitting on one poor fella’s list for almost two years now, highlighting at least one problem with the advance hype cycle.

At the Image Expo today, more than 20 new projects with the publisher were announced–some of them sound neat, some of them do nothing for me, but the earliest any of them starts seems to be late this fall. Meanwhile, at the Image Expo that happened about a year ago today, a great new project was announced that is only just now being offered in the catalogue, for release in September. SO far as I can tell it wasn’t mentioned at Image’s big expo at all today, despite it still effectively being an unreleased book, but one that could certainly use a the strong promotion that event provides, since now is the time for retailers to actually buy it. Don’t you think it’s profoundly weird that the biggest bit of press a book might get is six months, 12 months, or more, before the book is a real thing? I do.  But you look around, and that’s where the discussion, where the conversation in comics is at.

It’s weird.

I also wanna talk about reviews a little. About criticism, and even about those conversations we have about comics. I was chatting with a publishing rep friend a little while back, and he was absolutely despairing a situation I’ve been hearing a lot lately: “I can’t get anyone to talk about the books I publish. ” I empathise, I really do, because I just came out of a marketing job where that was my exact job. I like to think I did a pretty good job of it, but it was also a little bit easier because the video game licenses of the game books and the educational content of the manga classics had built-in audiences to pitch to–pitching an original I.P. is infinitely harder (as I learned). And the thing about this publishing rep friend of mine? He has a lot of good books! Or at least as good as most of the other stuff on the stands, the books that are getting talked about. Tweeted about. Bought. And they feel like they can’t get a shake because the conversation is still about Nth generation superhero universe reboots, and Image comics. And they can’t even be mad at Image, because they fought tooth and nail for their spot at the table. So? Just despair, because they don’t know what to do. I don’t think anyone knows what to do. And I think that the disparity and distance between a project’s hype and a project’s availability, I think it hurts smaller publishers, publishers with more diverse lines, willing to take bigger risks, the most. The lack of good critics actually talking about (and creating a conversation around) good comics that are actually available is having a pretty profound impact on the industry.

These aren’t isolated issues either. I’ve heard significant complaints about the two publishers that I think are doing the absolute best job at promoting their lines of books, from creators unhappy with their promotion and marketing, or their sales, or the attention they’ve been given. I’ve met creators perfectly happy with publishers that I feel do a lousy job of promoting them. I’ve met all sorts of creators in between. There’s no guarantee that, even when you CAN manage to create a hype cycle around a work AND a critical discussion around that works WHILE the books are available for sale, that it’s going to make everybody happy. But I can tell you that in general, it isn’t happening, and no one is quite sure exactly what to do.

I’m not in a position to tell anyone what to do, but I can take a moment to at least point out the fundamental disconnect that I’ve been writing about here today.

There are more comics and graphic novels being released every week, right now, in North America than quite possibly ever before. Certainly within my lifetime. There are rumblings about the stresses that this is putting on the industry, about the low sales of many projects, the even lower wages, the comics (and publishers!) that are nothing more than Hollywood-bait-get-rich-quick schemes, and the aging retail base making it difficult for certain types of comics to make it into stores.  But I think if you step back and look at the situation, it’s not hard to see that the divorce of the hype and publicity cycle from the sales cycle, and the lack of a strong and trusted critical and curatorial voice coinciding with both, are really hurting comics more than they’re helping. Especially good comics, diverse comics, and the kinds of comics I want to read and to find success.

– Christopher

 

Where’s Chris: Comic-Con Edition!

In case you forgot what I looked like.
In case you forgot what I looked like.

Hello! I am happy to say that I will once again be attending Comic-Con International: San Diego this year. I’ll mostly be stationed at the Drawn & Quarterly Booth, #1629, as the good folks there have given my erstwhile employer The Beguiling a small corner from which to sell a gorgeous array of original comics artwork. I’ll be helping Peter out there on and off through all five days of the show. If you want to say hello that’s not a bad place to look for me. You can also tweet me @comics212 to see what’s up.

I’m also happy to say that I have a very full panel and programming schedule this year, as I’ll be participating in or moderating 5 different programs at the big show. Every panel is very different from the other too, which is great. It’ll be a busy show. Here’s a quick run-down:

Friday, July 10th

Hopey, Julio, Skim, Oafs, and beyond,
Friday, 7/10/15, 1:00p.m. – 2:00p.m., Room: 28DE 

Emerging from the undergrounds and into the alt-comix of the 1980s, queer characters and voices have always been loud and proud in alternative and indie comics. Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez were at the forefront of queer characters’ visibility with their groundbreaking and award-winning comic book series LOVE AND ROCKETS, featuring brilliant characters like Hopey, Maggie, Israel, and Julio. Contemporary authors Mariko Tamaki and Ed Luce have contributed new queer icons in their books SKIM and WUVABLE OAF. Join all four creators and moderator Christopher Butcher (Comics212.net, Toronto Comic Arts Festival) for a discussion of the history of queer character visibility in alt and indie comics.

How to Survive Conventions as an Indie Creator
Friday, 7/10/15, 8:30p.m. – 9:30p.m. Room: 8

Calling all artists, small presses, and makers: Are you interested in or currently touring comics and pop culture conventions? Christopher Butcher (Toronto Comic Arts Festival) moderates a panel of experienced exhibitors Daniel Davis (Steam Crow, Booth Bastards), Shing Yin Khor (Sawdust Press), Paul Roman Martinez (The 19XX), and Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows (The Devastator) to discuss making a full convention calendar work alongside a heavy production calendar. They’ll also answer questions raised by the Comics Beat + The Devastator 2014 Convention Survey –– what should creators expect from conventions and how can we make the most of them?

Saturday, July 11th

Kids Comics Summit
Saturday, 7/11/15, 11:00am – 12:00pm. San Diego Central Public Library – Shelley Special Events Suite

What’s the state of the children’s comics industry?  Publishers talk about their publishing programs; discussing how kids comics have changed in the past decade and how they’ll change more in the decade to come. A conversation with Alex Segura (Archie Comics), Filip Sablik (Boom), Kuo-Yu Liang (Diamond), Gina Gagliano (First Second), Sven Larsen (Papercutz), and David Saylor (Scholastic). Moderated by Christopher Butcher (Toronto Comics Art Festival).

Best and Worst Manga of 2015
Saturday, 7/11/15, 7:00p.m. – 8:00p.m., Room: 23ABC

I don’t have the official description for this one, but myself, Brigid Alverson,  David Brothers, Eva Volin, and moderator Deb Aoki are once again participating in an hour of chaotic fun, as we run down our choices for some of the best and worst manga of the year. It’s gonna be fun, and it’s always a packed house!

Sunday, July 12th

Nickelodeon Returns to Comics!
Sunday, 7/12/15, 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Room 8

Eric Esquivel (writer, Sanjay & Craig), Sam Spina (artist, Sanjay & Craig) and Jim Salicrup (editor-in-chief of Papercutz) plus special guests give you an inside look at how Nickelodeon’s hit properties Sanjay & Craig, Breadwinners and Harvey Beaks are being turned into Papercutz Graphic Novels. Featuring the editors, writers and artists who make comics out of these awesome shows! Moderated by Christopher Butcher (The Beguiling, Toronto Comic Arts Festival).

And that’s it for now… I think. I’m always terrified that I’ve agreed to be on a panel and then forgotten about it completely. Heh. Anyway, I really am looking forward to Comic-Con again this year, as even the years where I have a miserable time are also years where amazing things happen. It’s a neat show that way.

Cheers,

– Christopher

The first TCAF Announcements have gone up…!

BURNS_TCAF_Poster_WEB_FINAL

I’m happy to say that the first round of TCAF announcements have gone up, including the preview of our first 2015 Poster by Charles Burns, and the announcement of Featured Guests including Burns, Gurihiru, Eleanor Davis, Lucy Knisley, Scott McCloud, Barbara Stok, Jillian Tamaki, and Chip Zdarsky. It’s going to be a spectacular year for the show, with some really amazing stuff planned. I’ll make sure to ping here with announcements as they’re made, but feel free to add the TCAF site and social media to your various feeds 😉

http://torontocomics.com/news/

Twitter: @Torontocomics
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TorontoComics
Tumblr: http://torontocomics.tumblr.com/

– Christopher

 

 

Distance

roseking

 

The distance between North America and Japan is so huge, sometimes. This cover was dropped into my inbox today because I’m on Viz’s press list, and this is a cool-looking book, sure, but the description–it’s an adaptation of Richard III, sorta, by a very talented shoujo manga-ka named Aya Kanno–and the image immediately create a wonderful dissonance.

It’s unabashedly a queer image, two men intertwined, slightly sexual, but I think really it’s more that it’s not afraid to read as a little queer, or a little sexual, than that it’s aggressively either of those things. Shakespeare was all kinds of queer, if you squinted especially, but as a contemporary portrayal this is so wonderfully unique.

Moreover, we just don’t see comic covers like this in North America. We don’t. In our supposedly accepting, permissive society, homosexuality, or queer masculinity, is still so forbidden. This isn’t a strictly queer, or strictly sexual work. This is mainstream comics (in Japan at least), a literary adaptation. Meanwhile an original work with original characters that pushes the boundaries? People freak out. The Walking Dead gay kiss is the most recent example of that.

In Japan, which is nominally considered a ‘repressive’ or ‘restrained’ society, to have an image like this adorn a very popular manga from a highly regarded manga-ka, the latest in her series of work exploring the politics of gender, sex, and sexuality? Totes fine.

Anyway, I love this artwork, I love the idea behind it too. I am frequently glad for manga (and works in translation in general) for reminding me that the world is big and has different ideas in it than I might see every day. I would’ve liked to have compressed this down to 140 characters for Twitter, since it’s not that big a thought, but, here we are.

– Christopher

 

 

Low Art

IMG_5203

 

One of the ‘things’ we ‘did’ in Paris (I went to Paris, btw) was go to the Pompidou Centre, because it was recommended and in the guidebooks and it’s a neat building and Andrew and I like going to art galleries. They only had 1 of their 2 galleries open, which meant that we got to see only the most recent bits of modern art (1980s onwards) and the Jeff Koons retrospective, toured there from the Whitney in New York.

We took in the Koons retrospective first; Andrew didn’t really know much about Koons or the controversy surrounding him, and I’d heard enough to greet the entire thing somewhat suspiciously, but with as open a mind as I could muster.

Having just read this excoriation of Koons and this show published in The New York Times last year (good read, check it out), I think my opinion now is the same as when I walked out of the retrospective;Jeff Koons makes pretty delightful work. To explain further: he doesn’t seem to have very much to say, but he’s really interested in saying it in a big way that tries to delight onlookers. This has made him enormously wealthy and famous.

I know that in certain circles, calling it art intended to do no more than delight is a savage criticism, but I wonder if those folks have visited the permanent collection of the Pompidou Centre, not the dadists and surrealists, but the 1980s and beyond stuff? It’s dreary as fuck. It’s art that’s more complex, thoughtful, and even occasionally illuminating, but it’s also generally terribly dull, none of its conceptual nautre benefiting in any way from being realized in a museum (hat tip to Andrew for that observation). Gallery after gallery, so little of the work was playful, or fun, instead exclusively reflecting the darkest parts of the dark decades since the 70s, drawing connections between darknesses, moments of levity often coming only through depravity. It’s impossible not to view it as a counterpoint to Koons’ work from the same period, galleries upon galleries of aggressive and often political work, set against Koons’ outsized tchochkes, toys, and relics. It certainly made a statement.

I was lucky enough to visit an installation at The National Gallery of Canada last year, itself complex, thoughtful, illuminating, and dreary, that was excellent. It’s called …from the Transit Bar, by Vera Frenkel, link here. A functioning dive bar (with alcohol) (I had a bourbon), a working piano, and interviews with various people who’d had to leave their homes for various reasons, played on CRT monitors and TVs around the room. Newspapers in various languages printed, conversations in languages you couldn’t understand, ominously dark, foreboding, and all of it illuminating an experience and a feeling and many, many ideas. A place that you didn’t really like, and you stayed just long enough to figure out where to go next. The remnants of violence everywhere. Powerful stuff. Produced in 1992, roughly the median of the Pompidou collection artworks, this had a similar tone and feeling but was considerably more successful, and successful at imparting ideas about security, about travel, about borders and languages than anything I saw in the Pompidou collection… in particular the many works trying to do just that.

So, yeah, it was very interesting to me to come out of the Koons exhibit, which I’d been told I’d hate (because he’s a shallow, horrible man, and because his work is so thin of premise you could shave with it) and feel kind of elated, a little giddy at it. I kind of want a metal balloon dog for my shelf, or maybe one of those shiny Popeye’s. To then be confronted with reams and reams of work imbued with meaning that were frankly boring and said little that wasn’t painfully obvious, well, shit, I’ll take the reproduction of the 12 foot Hercules with the glass sphere, please.

So, here’s the thesis, at the end instead of the beginning since this is a bit freeform: I think society is in a tough place, and security and comfort are universal needs. We’re being offered security, in the west, primarily through consumerism, and Koons has been aware of that for a long time. Rather than being the angry artist painting Ronald McDonald with a gun and a money bag robbing America, he’s the one enshrining him as the head of our ideals in shiny steel. That’s a repugnant image for many, particularly in the art world, but it’s no less valid a realization of how society views and uses consumerism, and frankly, it’s delightful to look at.

I had a fun time at the Koons exhibit. I left the Pompidou Centre exhausted. Go see the show if you can, it’s worth seeing. Keep an open mind, and a skeptical eye, and skip the gift shop because they don’t have little metal balloon dogs or shiny Popeyes.

IMG_5424

– Chris

P.S.: It’s very difficult for me not to read any sprawling criticism of ‘low art’ see it as a criticism of comics, the lowest of low art and the most commercially compromised art there is, generally. I would’ve introduced this idea into the above, but I haven’t really thoroughly interrogated it yet, so here it is as a postscript.

 

Con Scene Report by Devestator/The Beat

To my knowledge, the only-one-of-its-kind Con-scene report by Devestator and The Beat is now online [outline] [full report]. I believe this is the second year of the report, and this seems to have a greater participation than in the first year, though the sample size is still small.

It’s weird to write about this, mostly because TCAF is lauded in it and so linking it seems a bit like tooting my own horn, but there’s something important here.

If you remember my post on changing convention culture from late last year, I came to a few light conclusions, but I think one of those is now highlighted and underlined thanks to this report: non-comics exhibitors do better, on average, than comics exhibitors at comics shows. Even if the numbers are off, the trending isn’t, and this is an economic reality that comics makers at shows are constantly facing. I would think, or hope, that as someone who LIKES comics and wants to see successful and well-compensated creators of comics, that this would concern you reading. It certainly concerns those comic makers.

But most importantly, I’d hope that the convention organizers reading this survey realize that extra care and attention has to be given to comics at comics shows, just to bring things back up to an equal footing. Not an advantage, but equal.

Comics and their creators are the root of a lot of that merch and material that’s fighting for dollars at these shows, and treating them with a greater degree of attention, respect, and especially booth position and promotion, is integral to the overall health of the creators, and therefore, the comics industry.

Anyway, my two cents on a Monday afternoon.

– Chris

TCAF Photos used in this post by Joanna Wong, http://www.joannawong.ca/

5 Books from Top Shelf Publishing That I Like That Weren’t Mentioned In The Press Release Today

29716-v1-197xThe big news in the comics industry today is that IDW Publishing, known for its diverse lineup of periodicals and reprint projects, has acquired ‘indy’ publisher Top Shelf Productions. it’s an interesting fit, and after thinking about it all morning I think it’ll be a good one for both companies long-term, and I wish all involved well. I also want to send a special shout-out to my friend Brett Warnock, ex of Top Shelf, who announced his retirement from comics today. Best of luck, Brett.

Reading the press release, I could tell it was very, very well-crafted. This is a move that had seemingly been in the offing for a good long while, and from the extensive FAQ to the prepared quotes to seemingly covering every single base except one (Alan Moore-related), that this was a public-facing statement that all involved had given a good deal of thought to. In particular, I thought the listing of successful books from Top Shelf–March, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, Blankets, Swallow Me Whole, and Essex County, was probably a smart move too. The books have all made a great sales impression in the marketplace, and all of the names and titles bandied about are likely to be familiar and have positive associations for booksellers (particularly the Direct Market)… but to me anyway, Top Shelf has always been a really diverse publisher, with some great books off the beaten path. I thought it might be nice to showcase a few picks from their catalogue by creators not featured in today’s press release, and tell you a little bit about why I think they’re worth your time. All of these books are still in print, and available from finer retailers and comic book shops.

blue_cover_lg

Blue, by Pat Grant. $14.95.

It’s rare that a comic is genuinely and consistently unsettling, but Pat Grant’s Blue manages to accomplish just that in spades. While it can be easily reduced to a parable about race and assimilation–it reminded me a lot of the film District 9, which was released in close proximity to it–the narrative is very pointed, the characters embarassingly human. There’s some really brilliant cartooning in there as well, and the 2-colour presentation is the icing on the cake.

chester5000cover_lg

Chester 5000, by Jess Fink. $14.95.

I really love Chester 5000! This sensual and sexy wordless story about men and ladies and robot men in various romantic and sexual entanglements is a heck of a lot of fun, a bit of classy smut for your coffee table or bookshelf (depending on how ‘out’ you are about your classy smut). I particularly like how inventive it is–it feels unrestrained, like Fink is constantly upping the ante for her characters, her audience, and herself. The story has continued online past this first volume, so I hope a second volume is on the way soon!

FoxBunnyFunnyCoverToFilm

Fox Bunny Funny, by Andy Hartzell. $10.

This one bypasses ‘unsettling’ and heads right into ‘disturbing’ territory, and makes the story all the better for it. This wordless parable about identity (sexuality? gender? class? race? all of that and more?) is made all the more visceral thanks to the anthropomorphics involved–you’re either a fox, or a bunny. Bunnies are society’s prey, and a good fox hunts and devours them. But when a young fox wants to BE one of the bunnies, it brings his whole world crash down. I’m still not entirely sure what to think of this one, but I think about it a lot.

jack_04

jack1Jack’s Luck Runs Out, by Jason Little. $3.50.

Wow, it may have actually been 8 or 9 years since I read Jack’s Luck Runs Out, but a quick refresher on Jason Little’s website beecomix.com I remember this story of a small-time screw-up pretty well. But what has stayed with me, and why I recommend it, is the absolutely incredible presentation of this comic, in bold primary colours and using the style and iconography of playing cards. It’s a perfect match to its Vegas setting, and now I wanna go read the whole thing again.  Fun-fact: This project was the first full-colour project to be awarded a Xeric Grant.

moving_pictures_cover_72dpi_copy0_lg

Moving Pictures, by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen. $14.95.

This book has the honour of being one that, after I finished it, I started right back at the beginning and read it through again. With two timelines that converge on one another, very deft and clever dialogue, and so much of the story conveyed through the imagery, this is a book worth paying very close attention to. Twice. It’s ‘about’ hiding priceless works of art from the Nazi’s in occupied Paris, but there’s so much else going on too. A real gem.

moving_pictures_05

superf-ckers_lgBonus: Superfuckers #1-7, by James Kochalka. $7.

This shit is awesome. James Kochalka comes up with a teen superhero team that actually look and sound like teens. They are appropriately reprehensible. It was recently animated into a Youtube series, but the comics are fucking hilarous.  This was my favourite comic book series when it was coming out, I hope Kochalka goes back to it at some point.

mirrorlove_lgBonus #2: Mirror of Love, by Alan Moore and Jose Villarrubia. $19.95

This is not really a comic, and doesn’t count for my list since Alan Moore’s name is all over today’s press release, but I did want to mention this excellent ‘picture book for grownups’. The Mirror of Love matches Alan Moore’s epic poem about the history of homosexual attraction with the frankly beautiful photography of my friend Jose Villarrubia and creates a stunning package. A strange project for Top Shelf, and subsequently I don’t think it gets the attention it deserves, but excellent nonetheless.

– Christopher

5 Japanese Comics That Came Out In 2014 That Could’ve Been On A Best Of List Or Two

I’ve been taking a look at some of the “Best Comics of 2014″ lists that are filtering out, and I’ve been a little disappointed at their general lack of ambition, but at the specific lack of comics originating in Japan (i.e.: manga’) on those lists. I haven’t read very many comics at all this year, sadly, but below are 5 Japanese comics that I have read, and have been surprised not to see featured anywhere. I’m sure as I catch up on my reading over the next few weeks, it will not be difficult to find more. For now though, if you’re one of the folks who’s wondering what’s good in manga in 2014, keep reading.

sunny vol 3

Sunny, by Taiyo Matsumoto. Published by VIZ Media.
Volumes 3 & 4, released 2014.

My pick for ‘best comic of the year’ in 2013, Sunny continued to be excellent, heartbreaking, and beautifully illustrated in 2014.  Two further volumes of the series, set in a Japanese orphanage and featuring an outstanding group of young people in very difficult circumstances, arrived this year. Matsumoto is an outstanding cartoonist whose work has matured dramatically since Tekkon Kinkreet, and Sunny is largely regarded as one of the most beautiful manga in Japan. It is definitely one of the most beautiful comics being published in English today (in addition to being a truly moving read).

clothescalledfat

In Clothes Called Fat, by Moyoco Anno. Published by Vertical.
Single-volume manga, published 2014.

When it was originally released in Japan, this book caused something of a sensation. When released in French, it was an official selection at the Angouleme BD Festival, in consideration for best comic of the year, and caused no less of a sensation there. Now available in English, this book is raw, and grim, and still revelatory. It joins the very few manga titles explicitly for adult women (“Josei manga”) that have been published in English, and like the work of Kyoko Okazaki (Pink, Helter Skelter) it is absolutely worth your time.

monster_1_rerelease

Monster (New Edition), by Naoki Urasawa. Published by VIZ Media.
Volumes 1-3 released in 2014.

Monster was a touch ahead of its time upon its initial English-language release in 2006. This twisting, turning, world-spanning mystery story found a dedicated following, but was largely unknown by the larger readership of comics. Luckily Urasawa’s subsequent series Pluto and 20th Century Boys found a larger audience, and those titles, plus the announcement that Guillermo Del Toro had optioned Monster as a television series for HBO, sent new fans clamouring for very-expensive, very-out-of-print volumes. Well, the series is finally coming back into print, in larger, double-volumes, including colour pages. Don’t sleep on this series a second time.

whatdidyoueatyesterday_3

What Did You Eat Yesterday, by Fumi Yoshinaga. Published by Vertical.
3 volumes released in 2014.

Surprisingly powerful and honest, this is an entirely unique series in the world of English-language publishing. A young gay couple, seemingly mismatched, spends their lives together, and occasionally cooks together. This series blends incidents from their life, with illustrated recipes, and it is entirely charming and, over time, endearing. I look forward to every volume.

front-cover

MASSIVE: Gay Erotic Manga and the Men Who Make It, by Various. Published by Fantagraphics. 1 volume.

Look, we’re all grown-ups here, so hopefully a book full of erotic comics on a best-of list won’t upset you too much. As good as the erotic content is (and: it’s pretty good), what really puts it over the top for me is the more than 70 pages of supplementary material–creator interviews, introductions, and a history of this material. This is a great archive of lost comics history, expertly researched and beautifully presented. Like the book on Gengoroh Tagame that preceeded it, this is nearly unique in North America, and worth a spot on your bookshelf.

Alright, there’s 5 that I’ve read and loved. More to come, I’m sure.

– Chris @ The Beguiling

2014

January

1401

Philadelphia.

1401-2

I took this photo because the snow was so deep and fluffy, and it reminded me of when I told Edgar Wright before Scott Pilgrim was filmed that the snow in the book wasn’t artistic license–it was actually deep and big and fluffy like that. He was appropriately shocked.

February

1402-1

1402-2

It was blizzardy and I was a little grumpy, but I was super happy to help my friend Jocelyne move to be my neighbour!

March

1402-3

I can’t help it. I love Real Sports. It’s so awful it goes back around to being incredible.

1403-1

There was a blizzard just after this was taken.

April

1403-2

1403-3

We went to the Domincan Republic for Andrew’s brother’s wedding. It was beautiful. I burnt my legs in the sun so badly I couldn’t walk.

1404-3

Then, Calgary.

1403-4

And Boston.

May

1405-2

TCAF was pretty great this year. May seemed long though, every week was busy.

1405

By the time it ended with the Anime North after-party, we were all pretty burnt out.

June

1406-2

Pride.

1407

1408

Then to Las Vegas, which is Las Vegas. I went for work (really!), TCAF and UDON. It was a hoot.

July

1408-1

1408-2

Las Vegas then right to Ottawa for Damon and Marianka’s wedding, which was lovely.

1408-3

1407-1

A week later was Comic-Con. In n Out Burger was the most notable part of Comic-Con, maybe?

1408-4

August

14088

14088-1

Seattle.

14088-2

Tory & Kean got married!

September

1409-2

1410-1

Massive Realness.

1409-1

SPX with the awesome Koyama Bunch, in Maryland.

1410

Back to Toronto for Michael & Scott’s lovely wedding!

October

1411-1

England.

1411-2

November

1411-3

Tokyo.

1411-4

1411-5

1411-6

Osaka.

1412-1

Miyajima.

hiroshima

Hiroshima.

1412-2

Kobe.

December

1412-5

1412-4

1412-3

Andrew. :)

ramen

and ramen. :)

– 2014!

I’ll be in Japan for Christmas

Hey there. I’ll be in Japan from November 18 through December 29. Andrew will be there with me for the latter half of that. We’re both very excited.

I’m very fortunate to have worked this out with my employer at The Beguiling at the beginning of this year, and while the timing is awful, it’s never not going to be awful and so I’m pressing on.

I know it seems overly audacious to assume anyone gives a whirl about my travel plans, but since I know a bunch of people almost entirely online, and since this is unprecedented, I thought I’d make a brief note. I’m hoping to get a chance to write some more, and to relax, and maybe improve my terrible Japanese language ability a little. I’ll still be answering e-mails, but I probably won’t make it to your Christmas party.

Don’t worry, I’ll take pictures.

Thanks for your understanding and for not hating me,

– Christopher

Never Safe For Work