All of the most carefully embargoed secrets can be lain to waste by one unexpected early listing on Amazon.com, and that’s exactly what happened today. Early this afternoon Fantagraphics quickly announced that they would be publishing a new line of manga in partnership with Shogakukan, edited and curated by Matt Thorn and debuting with an anthology of work by acclaimed mangaka Moto Hagio. Thorn is well-known and respected for his long history of academic and popular writing on manga and anime, and particularly shoujo and queer material.
Reportedly four years in the making, the line is currently very vaguely defined as simply “a manga line” (no brand either), but the early titles and Thorn’s involvement with Fantagraphics seems to hint at a primarily shoujo-oriented line comprised of mature and sophisticated works, or at least early and groundbreaking ones. The four year date also hints that the development of this line began even before the release of Fantagraphics’ The Comics Journal #269 in 2007, the special shoujo issue which featured a short story by and interview with Hagio. Edit: I got the date wrong, TCJ #269 shipped in July 2005.
When Dirk Deppey broke the news at Journalista this afternoon, the confirmation drew immediate, elated results across the blogosphere… and this was before there was even an official press release. Even editor Matt Thorn seems to have found out about it from the online kerfuffle. But now that the cat is out of the bag, here are all the details I’ve been able to round up.
According to the Press Release from Fantagraphics, the line will officially launch in September 2010 with Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream, a best-of collection featuring a number of short stories from across Hagio’s career. Fantagraphics also announced that Hagio would be a Guest of Honor at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con (coming in late July), so it seems likely that the book will actually debut there along with her appearance (though this is entirely supposition on my part). Over at his blog, Matt Thorn filled in a little more information about the line-up of the short stories in A Drunken Dream:
- “Bianca” (1970, 16 pages)
- “Girl on Porch with Puppy” (1971, 12 pages)
- “Autumn Journey” (1971, 24 pages)
- “Marié, Ten Years Later” (1977, 16 pages)
- “A Drunken Dream” (1980, 21 pages)
- “Hanshin” (1984, 16 pages) [previously published in The Comics Journal #269]
- “Angel Mimic” (1984, 50 pages)
- “Iguana Girl” (1991, 50 pages)
- “The Child Who Comes Home” (1998, 24 pages)
- “The Willow Tree” (2007, 20 pages)
The book is currently set at 228 pages, in a hardcover measuring 7″ x 9″ and in the original Japanese right-to-left orientation. No price has been announced. All of the stories seem to have been published by licensing partner Shogakukan, who as you may know is also one of the partner-owners of American manga publisher Viz LLC.
Hagio is an incredibly important manga creator though to date only a few pieces of her work have been released in English, including A,A’, They Were Eleven, and the short story “Hanshin”. As a founding member of “The Magnificent 24″ group of female creators, she revolutionized manga for girls and pioneered the shoujo manga genre in the 1970s, drawing from influences like the radical youth culture of the 60s, rock and roll music, and European cinema. Hagio is the winner of a number of prestigious manga prizes, including the Tezuka Cultural Prize. The interview with Hagio and career overview in TCJ #269 is really outstanding, and I strongly recommend tracking down an issue if you’re a manga fan.
In December 2010, Fantagraphics will release the second work in the line, the transgender-centric manga Wandering Son by mangaka Shimura Takako. Originally called Hourou Musuko in the Japanese, the series follows two young friends; Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Far from the comedy antics of gender-bending series like Ranma 1/2, the series is apparently a straight-forward exploration of the two characters as they struggle with puberty, gender identity, and growing up.
The first book is also in a 7″ x 9″ hardcover format, Japanese right-to-left orientation, with no announced price.
Interestingly, Wandering Son is currently ongoing in Japan with a tenth volume scheduled for release later this month, making it a radical departure for Fantagraphics and “art manga” publishing in general, which has yet to tackle an ongoing series. Even more interesting, the series is currently serialized in the magazine “Comic Beam”, a seinen (young men’s) manga magazine which runs all kinds of series–from Kaouru Mori’s Emma (published in the U.S. by CMX), to Junko Mizuno’s Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu (Last Gasp), to the dark/sexy adventure series King of Thorn by Yuji Iwahara (Tokyopop)–a far cry from straight-ahead shoujo. The strangest bit? While Dirk Deppey announced Matt Thorn’s manga line as a partnership with Shogakukan, Wandering Son and “Comic Beam” are published by Japanese publisher Enterbrain, showing that the line will not be entirely populated with Shogakukan titles.
In conclusion: Great day to be a manga fan.
Fantagraphics Official PR
Dirk Deppey’s Announcement at Journalista
Matt Thorn’s Announcement
Anime News Network Announcement
David Welsh, Manga Curmudgeon
Horo Musuko (Wandering Son) at Wikipedia
Anime Vice, the first site to spot the books at Amazon