Category Archives: Manga

Introducing Shintaro Kago

Every year I try to write a little bit about an artist whose work I particularly enjoy that is attending TCAF as one of our guests. As Festival Director, I realize that it’s a bit treacherous to play favourites with the attending artists, and I generally don’t. If anything, I try to write about an artist whose work I love, but who might not be that well known to the general public, and who could use the ‘boost’ in notoriety before they get to the festival itself.

This year I was going to write about Shintaro Kago, Japanese gag cartoonist, pornographer, and comics formalist–a really interesting guy with really interesting work. I’d been thinking about the blog post I would make, here, on the blog, and maybe I’d also remind whatever readership I have left about TCAF coming up and all that, and it woulda been a nice post. A funny thing happened though, as I was composing that article in my head (I compose a lot of articles in my head that never make it here), I was approached by Kago’s Italian Publisher, Hollow Press, to write the introduction to TRACT, an original graphic novella of Kago’s work that would be debuting at TCAF 2016. I thought to myself that writing the introduction to that book would be just like writing an introduction to the cartoonist on my blog, more or less, so I happily accepted their offer and wrote my (short) introduction to the work of Shintaro Kago. It appeared in the new graphic novel TRACT, which as far as I can tell will not be distributed to North America through normal channels (The Beguiling has it, though, and it sold out at TCAF!).

And now I got a blog post out of it too:

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INTRODUCTION TO SHINTARO KAGO’S TRACT

I have liked the work of Shintaro Kago for a very long time.

Since seeing his beautiful, perverse, inventive story Punctures in the year 2000 anthology Secret Comics Japan, I’ve been fascinated by a creator seemingly obsessed with comics formalism, the kind of work that could only be made because of the strengths of the comics medium, while simultaneously being draped with eroticism and grotesquery. These things don’t really exist in the American comics market, and this story (and really that whole anthology) was a revelation. I scrounged to find other works by Kago, some illegally (to my great shame), and each time I’d be thrilled and awed by comics that would push at the boundaries of the storytelling medium, while simultaneously being very explicitly sexual, and often quite disturbingly so. Pages and panels would rotate, spin, and fold on themselves and back again, all while distended genitalia would skitter along the gutters, having grown tiny limbs and minds of their own. Incredible stuff, reinforcing my idea that Japan was a land of unfettered experimentation within their comics industry, that manga was willing to truly expand the language of the form.

When I began to travel to Japan and to interview manga-ka, meeting Shintaro Kago and asking him about his groundbreaking work was at the top of my list. I finally got my chance on one trip, interviewing him about his long career in manga. After expressing my admiration (with examples!) I asked him why his incredible, experimental comics were so pornographic?

“Because adult magazines are the only places I can get published,” he answered. “As long as a story has some kind of sex, or even sex and grotesqueness, I can do whatever experiments I like.”

It was not the answer I was expecting, both disheartening and inspiring. It seems that even in Japan, the innovators of the industry must take work where they can find it, creators struggling to find their audience however they can, to connect with people. Much of Kago’s recent career has become trying to make these connections outside of the manga industry, through original toys, commissioned personal and professional illustrations, whatever it takes. I admire his dedication, and thank those that have seen the value in his work and published him.

To that end, I’m very grateful to Hollow Press for commissioning and publishing this second original work by Shintaro Kago, free from the bonds of genre and manga magazines, so that he might communicate his ideas on formalism, on storytelling, on comics to the wider world.

  • Christopher Butcher, comics212.net & TCAF

TRACT is available for sale online from Hollow Press, and in-store at
The Beguiling and Page & Panel: The TCAF Shop. Shintaro Kago has a neat website you should check out. 

The Decade in Comics Publishing, 2005-2015

At the end of August, Heidi MacDonald and Calvin Reid from Publisher’s Weekly asked me to participate in a survey about the decade of growth in comics and graphic novels, and mine and my colleagues’ responses are in an article that just went live on the PW site.

As the introduction says, in 2005 there were no ebooks or iPads, we were firmly in the middle of the graphic novel (and manga) boom, and even then it was clear that things were changing rapidly. For me, I’d been at The Beguiling a few years, we were just holding the second TCAF in Honest Ed’s Parking Lot, and Scott Pilgrim Volume 2 was debuting (I went to the printer and picked up the TCAF copies myself). I also blogged a lot more back then, just making the transition from writing about the way the industry to be, to doing all the work that I felt needed to be done. It was an interesting time.

For my part, in August when I was asked to participate in this survey, I’d spent the summer penning a few essays and participating in some panels that resonated with a lot of folks working in the industry, and really got under the skin of others. Essays about how, essentially, the graphic novel & manga boom really occurred largely outside of the purview of the medium’s then-gatekeepers, in both the superhero and art comics camps. I really feel the growth was almost entirely from new audiences, from work that was either ignored or denegrated, and I still do, so, it helps maybe explain where my head was at in general when answering. I also thought, and still think, that with more money coming into the industry, and more opportunities, it behooves those of us with a voice and a say in how the playing field is shaped to try and address some of the imbalances in the industry.

It’s a pretty good survey article, and the folks participating are generally the folks I’ve seen gain the most out of the growing graphic novel industry. I think I would like to have seen a few answers from the superhero folks and the artcomics folks, but perhaps representatives were invited and declined to participate. Despite 7 different people all answering from their perspectives, I don’t think there’s much in there I disagree with (at least from the perspectives of those answering), and my friend Librarian Eva Volin in particular ends the article with a great mic-drop. If you have the opportunity, go check it out, let me know what you think in the comments.

  • Christopher

In Tokyo? Don’t miss this exhibit of originals by Jiro Taniguchi and Igort, ending December 19th.

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While in Japan this fall, I was fortunate enough to take in a lovely exhibition of original comics artwork by two modern masters, Igort and Jiro Taniguchi. While I’m super behind on my Japan blogging, I wanted to mention this one because it ends on December 19th, and if you can attend you absolutely should, it’s wonderful and free!

Here’s a link with all of the relevant location info: http://www.tokyoartbeat.com/event/2015/7F2A.en

My friend Jocelyne and I made the trek to Kudanshita, and then up the hill to the exhibition at The Italian Cultural Institute in Tokyo. We arrived just as the building was closing for the day and we had the place all to ourselves. So: a few pictures!

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The exhibition featured lovely introductions for both artists, in Japanese and Italian, and the large printed materials really complimented the originals and helped fill the large, lovely space.

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The exhibition featured Igort on the right (orange), and Taniguchi on the left (blue), and was about men taking a walk. Igort’s work was pulled primarily from his new book “Les Cahiers Japonais: Un voyage dans l’empire des signes”, a travelogue of sorts. The art was lovely and was very much the perspective of an outsider looking into Japan, lots of Japonisme to the work. I’m interested to read it now, and I hope it gets an English translation.

Taniguchi’s work was drawn from one of his newest projects, a gorgeous fully watercolour-painted travelogue of Venice, commissioned by Louis Vuitton(!) and available more-or-less exclusively through them. It’s a gorgeous book and the artwork itself is similarly beautiful, the details and sense of place very impressive indeed.

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In addition to the originals from both books, the display cases also featured original artwork and books from different projects in the artists’ careers, going back almost to the beginning. It’s remarkable just how much Taniguchi’s style has changed, and how much it’s remained the same, over the years. The exhibition also featured 4 short films about the artists on a loop, and a selection of their graphic novels for visitors to browse (French, Italian, and Japanese).

The exhibition is free, and also features a small catalogue to go along with it. We got ours for free, which was a lovely treat! Unfortunately they’re still packed away, and I’ll see about uploading a photo or two of it when I unpack.

I wasn’t allowed to take close up pictures of the art, for obvious reasons, so I’ve included a few samples from both cartoonists below that I found on the web. Both books are lovely, and if you can track down that limited edition Taniguchi do so before it’s too late–it’ll set you back $80-$100.

Jiro Taniguchi, from Venice:

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VeniseTaniguchi VeniseTaniguchi

 

 

Igort, from Les Cahiers Japonais:

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Japan Travel, Hiroshima, Barefoot Gen, and Kickstarter.

I’ve been recounting my travels to Japan in November and December 2014 over on my Facebook. These are travels outside of Tokyo, and were largely personal trips, not related to comics, and I felt like they weren’t particularly well-suited to Comics212. But we’re at the point in the trip where I reached Hiroshima, and I thought I’d share that here.

The Eternal Flame Monument at the Hiroshima Peace Museum.
The Eternal Flame Monument at the Hiroshima Peace Museum.

71lPIsdV9hLI had been to Japan about a half-dozen times before my trip in November and December 2014. With each trip I’d never made it much further west than Osaka, and with each trip I’d feel a growing feeling of… I dunno, guilt, but also the abdication of responsibility, that I’d never been to Hiroshima, to see the remains and to see the Peace Museum. I’d read a bunch about Hiroshima and seen a documentary, and the graphic novels ‘Barefoot Gen’ by Keiji Nakazawa, and ‘Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms’ by Fumiyo K?no, are both excellent, emotional, and often visceral works on the subject of the bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath that have stayed with me for years.

Monument on the Hiroshima Peace Museum grounds.
Monument on the Hiroshima Peace Museum grounds.

Currently, Last Gasp Publishing has a Kickstarter running to support its mission to place Barefoot Gen, for free, into schools and libraries across America. As someone who finally visited Hiroshima late last year, and who saw the devastation and its aftereffects, and spoke with survivors firsthand, I can say that this incident is still as relevant as ever. The discussion that Barefoot Gen could and should spark in schools and libraries is one worth having, and I hope you’ll support this Kickstarter:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1784498350/barefoot-gen-for-schools-and-libraries

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The only photo I snapped inside the museum is this one showing the town of Hiroshima in 1945. The red ball hanging over top is the height, location, and size of the explosion of the atomic bomb.

I didn’t take many photos in Hiroshima, because quite honestly I was having a tough time. It didn’t seem appropriate to be snapping away, at least not with tears in my eyes. My friends have told me that it doesn’t get any easier, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary to go, and I’ll probably head back there at least once more, to take it all in again.

Across the river from the museum is the actual memorial, with the "Atomic Bomb Dome" building.
Across the river from the museum is the actual memorial, with the “Atomic Bomb Dome” building.

If you’re able to visit the Peace Museum, and like myself able to sign the Peace declaration, please do.

Thanks,

– Christopher

The Atomic Bomb Dome is a ruin left largely intact as a reminder of the devestation of the war. After visiting the museum, I sat for a long time directly across the river from this monument.
The Atomic Bomb Dome is a ruin left largely intact as a reminder of the devestation of the war. After visiting the museum, I sat for a long time directly across the river from this monument.

The nuts and bolts of Gay and BL manga

“When I look at gay art in comics as a critic, I get really anxious about that division precisely because the simplistic way of dividing it is that BL represents more romance, narratives, thinner body types, more effeminate characters. And then so-called gay manga would be just more diesel, big guys and more hardcore sex, etc.

“But what happens when the creator is a woman doing more hardcore work? Is that considered gay? Is it BL just because she’s female? Is it about the audience, or is it about the creators?”

– Gengoroh Tagame

My Brother's Husband, by Gengoroh Tagame.
My Brother’s Husband, by Gengoroh Tagame.

I’m so thrilled to see that the transcript from the TCAF panel on Gay Manga and BL manga has been posted at Deb Aoki’s MangaComicsManga. Thanks to Deb for hosting it, to Shaindle Minuk for the transcription, and Deb and Graham for the edits.

The actual panel title was “Gay Comics Art Japan”, and it talks about not just gay manga, not just BL, but gay identity as it’s expressed through art, and the identities of its creators. It is exactly what I hoped it would be when I helped put it together, and Graham Kolbeins (Massive), Leyla Aker (VIZ/SuBLime), Gengoroh Tagame, and especially host, translator, and panelist Anne Ishii, all did an incredible job. I’m so proud of them and grateful to them.

This is a wonderful look at many of the facets of homosexual desire as expressed through Japanese manga, and I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

– Christopher

Shifts and living history

One of the things that I mentioned on the Inkstuds podcast with David, Brandon, and Robin, is an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for a long while now, and that’s the concept of the comics industry (and occasionally the medium) going out of its way to ‘other’ the success of books that they don’t like, or don’t want to be representative of ‘their’ industry. (If you’re not familiar with the term Othering, btw, this is a pretty good description.) I want to dig into that idea a bit more, because I think we’ve maybe just witnessed a real shift in the way the industry is able to deal with those successes.

So, basically, my theory goes that the manga boom in the late 90s sort of blew up every single thing that the industry thought about comics, and who the audience is for comics, and what comics can do. I’ve been writing about comics on and off since about 96-97, and I’ve been writing not only about the potential for comics, but then the realization of comics. It was a time of really quick change, a lot of it good change, sparked mostly by $10 trade paperbacks of Sailor Moon (big-ups to Tokyopop). The success of those books and the ones that followed like Card Captor Sakura, Peach Girl, Fruits Basket, and so many more, were the proof to the theories that comics could be for everyone, for women and for girls especially, and could sell in numbers that were comparable to how they sold overseas. Then Viz launched Shonen Jump, Random House launched the Del Rey Manga line (now Kodansha), Hachette launched Yen Press. The comics came out, the comics sold well, the comics brought in new audiences.  Sales exploded, sales leveled, sales crashed, sales leveled again, and just this year everyone’s saying that sales are up a little once more. Not just for girls and women, but across the board. This is all stuff that actually happened, and you can go back and look it up if you don’t want to take my word for it.

So how did the rest of the comics industry react to this sea-change? In the pettiest way possible of course, by othering the success of that material as much as they could. “Manga aren’t comics,” went the discussion. They were, and are in many ways, treated as something else. The success that they had, the massive success that they continue to have, doesn’t ‘count’. All those sales and new readers were just ‘a fad’, and not worthy of interest, respect, or comparison to real comics. It was the one thing that superhero-buying-snobs and art-comics-touting-snobs could agree on (with the exception of Dirk Deppey at TCJ, bless him): This shit just isn’t comics, real comics, therefore we don’t have to engage it. You can see traces of this attitude, in, for example, The New York Times Best Sellers list for comics, which split manga out into its own category after pressure from non-manga publishers, because the lists woulda been manga-dominated every week. Then the manga boom and manga bust and leveling could all happen off to the side, and no one would have to encounter scary ideas like “women make comics” and “women read comics” and “women buy comics” and they could keep the now-more-narrowly-defined comics industry the exact shape that they wanted to, albeit a little smaller and a little sadder for the exclusion.

(Side note: Sadder still than the people who insist(ed) that manga aren’t and can’t be comics are the poor brainwashed weebs who insist that comics can’t be manga. It’s a dumb argument. If comics is a language then manga is at most a dialect, at least slang, not a different language entirely.)

(Side note 2: At least alt-comix finally embraced manga to a degree in the mid 2000s. Although the gender split among creators of manga translated into English and published by alt-manga publishers is about 90% men at this point, which is not really very good!)

So, the comics industry was able to successfully ignore the massive success and new audiences that the manga publishers brought with them. But you know who didn’t? Kids publishers. Scholastic Graphix. Papercutz. Abrams. First Second. Kids Can Press. Even Yen Press’ arm at Hachette. They saw that with the right conditions, you could get someone other than males aged 18-49 to read comics, and have it be incredibly successful. These publishers paid attention and put together imprints to publish original work specifically for the audiences that the comics mainstream insisted didn’t exist: Kids, girls especially, tweens and teens. And the books sold well. Won new audiences. A whole industry of “original graphic-novel” based creation sprung up that simply did not exist before the success of manga, the success of Bone at Graphix, of Twlight: The Manga at Hachette, Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys graphic novels, Binky the Space Cat, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, American Born Chinese. Or Smile, by Raina Telgemeier. Smile, which sat on the bestseller list for a year and was largely disregarded by the comics industry. Incredible bestsellers, many with outside-of-comics media attention, largely ignored, deliberately ignored. Because their success didn’t fit the paradigm. They weren’t comics. They were ‘for kids’.

(Side Note 3: Still heard the old saw that ‘Kids Comics Don’t Sell’ at Comic-Con this year from a larger pub.)

“Those aren’t real comics, aren’t real graphic novels,” went the refrain around 2010, 2011. “They’re for kids. They lack sophistication, they lack nuance, they’re babyish.” So you can ignore the massive success of Bone and Smile and 66,000 copies of Twlight: The Manga sold on release week, or a 190,000 copy print run on Papercutz’ Lego: Ninjago graphic novel, because the books, if kids are reading them, can’t possibly be any good. Because the books in a publisher’s line are all the same trim size, there’s no art to them. Because they sell well, there’s no art to them. Regardless of who is creating them or under what circumstance. It’s a garbage argument that, once spelled out here becomes obvious and sad, but it’s still an argument that gets made all the time, with every book release.  And we can successfully other, again, the success of books aimed at anyone who isn’t a male aged 18-49, and the industry puts even tighter blinkers on and it gets a little smaller, and a little sadder still.

(Side note 4: Raina Telgemeier wasn’t considered ‘notable’ enough by Comic-Con to be a Special Guest at Comic-Con in 2014–even though SMILE and DRAMA had topped the NYT Best Seller lists for more than a year each, at that point. They realized the error of their ways this year and she was a special guest for 2015.)

Speaking of 2015… here we are. The past 20 years have been specifically depressing when it comes to how the comics industry, particularly what we think of as ‘mainstream’ comics and ‘art-comics’, have regarded the massive changes that have been happening in the larger medium of comics and graphic novels, and their perception and place in North America. It’s not all bad, there are some bright spots at traditional comics publishers when it comes to representation, diversity, and audience… but I think it’s mostly bad. But I also think that this year, 2015, is gonna pretty much put the nail in the coffin for the old way of thinking, because the ‘othered’ books, and the audiences for those books, and the creators of those books, are dominating any real discussion of the medium AND the industry, and the folks who haven’t gotten with the program look foolish as hell.

The optimism started for me earlier this year. The Tamaki’s This One Summer co-published by Groundwood and First Second Books took home the Printz Award and the Caldecott Award (among many other honours), a very big deal. Only the second time a graphic novel and won the Printz and the first time for the Caldecott. These were good, solid wins, that caused delightful controversy in library circles. Brought a smile to my face.

Last month Scholastic Graphix sent out a seemingly innocuous note that was actually a very loud statement: Congratulations to Raina Telgemeier for Smile being on the NYT Bestseller list for three straight years–oh and she’s also got the top four spots on the list simultaneously as well.

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It was, as the kids say, shots fired. Scholastic e-mailed this graphic to the press of the entire comics industry, and they wanted to say something very clear: “This isn’t a flash in the pan, this isn’t ‘just’ kids books, this is a writer-artist who has made a major achievement, who has won a huge audience and continues to win new audiences every single week, with every single book she makes. Pay attention.”

Flash back to a little over a week ago: This is the first year that Marvel Comics as a Publisher did not win any Will Eisner Awards for excellence in comics, and none of the creators who won individual awards like penciller, writer, inker, colourist (awards that were basically invented to recognize achievements by creators working on assembly-line big-two superhero books) had any substantial Marvel comics work this year. DC Comics’ recognition came for J.H. Williams III’s work on Sandman: Overture and a month’s worth of Darwyn Cooke variant covers, which is a very small showing for them. You know who did take home Eisners though? A lot of women, a lot of folks working on books with large or primary female audiences, and young audiences too. Emily Carroll, Evan Dorkin & Jill Thompson, Shannon Watters & Grace Ellis & Noelle Stevenson & Brooke A Allen of Lumberjanes, Ariel Cohn & Aron Nels Steinke, Cece Bell, Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki, Gene Yang, Raina Telgemeier, Fiona Staples, they took home Eisners this year. 

The 2015 Eisner winner list doesn’t look like other years, and even though the list has been trending in this direction for a few years, it was surprising to me. I smiled pretty hard at that one. The Eisner Awards are voted on by professionals working in the comics industry, and it’s pretty clear from the results that the professionals working in the comics industry AND the books that they think best represent the industry to the outside world have changed dramatically from even five years ago, to be considerably broader, and considerably more diverse.

(Side Note 5: I want to be clear: I specifically do not intend to denigrate the work of anyone nominated for an Eisner this year who didn’t win, either in my personal appreciation of their work or the larger recognition of their work. It’s intended to illustrate a larger shift in how Eisner voters are approaching the awards, and who the voters now are. Just needs to be said.)

I’ve been thinking about those Eisner wins for the last week, about Raina’s success, and about some great, important conversations I had at Comic-Con, and I can’t help but grin about it. Things aren’t just changing; things have changed. I think very much for the better. We are at a point where the success of traditionally ‘othered’ books and authors is so large, so in-everyone’s-face, and so displacing of traditional comics ‘successes’, that you simply can’t reduce the size of the industry enough, or tighten the blinders enough. You can’t other what has become the majority.

What finally prompted me to talk about this, to expand a couple of short sentences in the podcast into a blog post was actually this week’s New York Times Best Seller list for comics. The softcover list features female creators as 9 of the top 10 books (with a very women-audiences-friendly holdout by lovely male creators). The folks on my Twitter timeline had a nice little celebration when that list was released, and I’m really happy for them. Well, not really ‘them,’ actually. But us. All of us, including the superhero pubs and the art-comix pubs and even the sour fans and weebs; the industry is markedly, demonstrably better for more people right now than it has been in years, because we can produce successful books for women and men, for children, tweens, teens, and adults, and those books can sell, and we can celebrate our successes together, if we want to. We get more, different, successful comics. That’s a win.

The NYT list and the Eisners and basically every single benchmark we have in this industry are flawed, often badly flawed, but we can take all of these things together and pull out some very clear and important trends: We as an industry have made enormous steps in the last 20 years to not deliberately exclude women and young people from the comics medium, and to actively celebrate their accomplishments. That doesn’t mean that everyone is now suddenly enfranchised, or that the industry is done deliberately excluding audiences (not to mention creators, not to mention people working in the publishing industry), but real progress has been made.

Let’s recognize it. Let’s celebrate it. Most importantly, let’s keep it going, and keep pushing for positive, inclusive change.

– Christopher

 

 

Podcasts is a weird word. Is it specifically tied to the iPod? Anyway.

ITEM! I just saw this tumblr post by Kelly Sue Deconnick, someone I’ve known a real long time now, imploring a fan to pre-order one of her upcoming books:

If you’re interested in picking [Pretty Deadly] up, PLEASE PRE-ORDER. After this long of a delay, I guarantee it’ll be under-ordered. That’s on me, but if you want it, I want you to be able to get your hands on it. Pre-order, pleeeeeaaase.  – Kelly Sue

Kelly Sue was right there at the ‘dawn’ of the pre-order movement on the Warren Ellis forum (referenced here), and she knows the importance of that sort of direct customer engagement. I think this is a great example of the importance of pre-ordering, because by all accounts Kelly Sue is a creator who’s “Made It”, who has a dedicated fan base, but is still encouraging fans to take an agressive, forward-looking position when it comes to getting her comics. If Kelly Sue thinks it’s important, then it’s important, and my advice to all creators is to start trying to really mobilize your fanbases.

Also of note? This very elaborate Greg Pak pre-order campaign for his upcoming series from Dark Horse, entitled Kingsway West.

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ITEM! I was a guest on Robin McConnell’s INKSTUDS podcast alongside the talented David Brothers and Brandon Graham, and it just went live. We talk for nearly 2 hours on this one, and I actually listened to it and I think, you know, I think it’s pretty good. David’s an incredibly smart guy, and I think he’s one of the people that brings out the best in my own commentary on the comics industry; I was super-happy to spend an hour chatting with him (Robin and Brandon were great too, don’t get me wrong). We recorded this about a month ago, and it actually got me thinking, and thinking, and I’ve actually been writing here at the blog since then. Maybe I’ll keep it up? Anyway.

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LtoR: Eva Volin, Brigid Alverson, Chris Butcher, Deb Aoki, David Brothers.

ITEM! I just got back from San Diego and had a really good time. I was on a record six (6!) panels this year as a participant or moderator, and it looks like all of the info for one of the panels is now online. I got to join Deb Aoki, Brigid Alverson, David Brothers, and Eva Volin on The Best and Worst Manga 2015 for the fourth year running. I had a great time. 🙂

You can see all of our pics, slides, etc., at Deb Aoki’s Manga Comics Manga: http://mangacomicsmanga.com/sdcc-2015-best-and-worst-manga-of-2015/

…and Jamie Coville has the complete audio of the panel over at his website, TheComicBooks.com: http://www.thecomicbooks.com/audio.html#SanDiego2015

 

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print!

– 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

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

 

 

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