ITEM: My good friend Steven Murray did a history of Watchmen‘s journey to the silver screen, in comics format. It’s quite good (excerpt above). Check it out at The National Post.
ITEM: I am interviewed about Watchmen for an article which appeared in The National Post a few days ago. They left out the part where I said that I kind of hoped the Watchmen film killed superhero movies, just like the Watchmen graphic novel really ought to have been the last word from superhero comics. Maybe next time!
ITEM: I am also interviewed as part of Now Magazine’s cover story on The Watchmen. I’m in the sidebar (along with my boss) talking about adaptations of comics to films.
ITEM: I just wanted to say I got an advance copy of Emmanuel Guibert’s The Photographer in today, and it’s awesome. And huge! Like 9×12″! I had no idea it was going be so big! Way to go First Second! Yay! Comics!
Hey, kudos to the folks at DC Comics for doing right by the Final Crisis HC. Originally scheduled to contain just FC #1-7 for 25 bucks, it’s now also going to include the absolutely-essential Superman Beyond #1 & #2, as well as Final Crisis: Submit, all by Final Crisis author Grant Morrison, an extra 100+ pages for 30 bucks total. From Newsarama’s coverage of this weekend’s DC Nation panel at Megacon in Florida:
Dan Didio: “…One thing DC realized is that when we collect Final Crisis in hardcover, it will have to include all 7 issues, 2 issues of Superman Beyond, and one issue of Submit. Once the material is all together, and when you read it as a whole, it’s simple. Originally, I wasn’t fully supportive, but for the full and better reading experience, it’s a home run.”
I’m really glad that reason won out, and someone convinced Dan Didio to make a good decision.
From a retail perspective: I just quadruled the number of copies we’ll be ordering of this book. So, you know, good call DC Comics.
Still mostly on radio-silence here because The Beguiling and The Toronto Comic Arts Festival are taking up almost every single bit of my time at the moment, but I did want to let folks in Toronto know about all of the great stuff happening this week (and next) in the T-dot. I admit I’m bragging a little but here too, but only a little. Toronto is awesome. :)
‘Stripmalling’ Book Launch Tonight
Launch party for ‘Stripmalling’ Presented by ECW Press and This Is Not A Reading Series Monday, March 2nd, 7:30pm The Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen St. West $5 Cover (Free with book purchase) http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=44003449363
Toronto author Jon Paul Fiorentino brought our good friend Evan Mundy on board to do extensive illustrations and comics sequences for his new novel, ‘Stripmalling!’ Then they made a short movie about how the book was made, “The Way of the Smock: The Making of Stripmalling”. Catch the trailer here:
This Monday, they’re launching the book, showing the film, doing a reading, an interview, and more. ‘Stripmalling’ looks great and Evan is a wonderful guy. See you at the Gladstone tonight!
2. Seminar: Anime and Contemporary Japanese Society
Anime and Contemporary Japanese Society
Wednesday, March 4, 2009, 6pm-8:30pm (doors at 5:45)Ryerson University, 245 Church Street George Vari Engineering & Computing Centre, ENG 103
Admission FREE – Reservation recommended for guaranteed seatingRSVP at www.jftor.org/whatson/rsvp OR firstname.lastname@example.org OR 416.966.1600 x600
Digital Value Lap Ryerson University, The Japan Foundation, and Consulate General of Japan in Toronto present two important lectures that will be of interest to Beguiling customers and friends, on Anime and Contemporary Japanese Society.
POSTCRITICAL ANIME: OBSERVATIONS ON ITS ‘IDENTITY’ WITHIN CONTEMPORARY JAPAN
While anime is being watched on a global scale, there are significant differences in its contemporary reception. The gap between regular consumers and critical spectators, sometimes appearing in the form of Japanese audiences vs. foreign Japanologists, deserves special attention since it raises a number of questions, such as what sort of animated film is identified as ‘anime’; who relates anime to politics, history and society; what kind of meaning is at play in anime’s performative images, and to what extent one can read ‘Japanese society’, or even ‘culture’, out of anime. Comparing Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” (1954) and Gonzo’s “Samurai 7” (2004) as well as touching upon anime’s history, this lecture focuses on aesthetic and cultural identities ascribed to anime in modern Japan and their contemporary relevance.
Jaqueline Berndt is Associate Professor of Art and Media Studies, Yokohama National University. She specializes in aesthetics/art theory, anime, visual cultural and Japanese studies, aesthetics of comics, art in modern Japan and animation.
OTAKU CULTURE: PERSONALITY, SPACE & CITY OF ANIME FANS IN JAPAN
Optimism about an ever-progressing technological future ran out in the 1970′s. It was in the mid-1980′s that the term otaku was coined to signify a new personality that had emerged as a reaction to the loss of ’future’.The term evokes a stereotyped image of a geeky computer nerd, long past adolescence but still obsessed with games and anime. The presentation shall explore how this otaku personality became a geographical phenomenon in a district called Akihabara, together with its role in the development of Japanese anime.
Kaichiro Morikawa is Associate Professor of Contemporary Culture in the School of Global Japanese Studies at Meiji University. His research interests include design and architectural theory. Prof. Morikawa served as commissioner of the Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale 9th International Architecture Exhibition in 2004.
This sounds pretty amazing, and although this will be a VERY busy week, this will be one lecture series worth attending…!
3. MARCH 6-12: FEAR(S) OF THE DARK – Film featuring Charles Burns
FEAR(S) OF THE DARK March 6th-12th at the Royal Cinema, 608 College Street Directors Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti, Richard McGuire; France, 2008
If you’ve been following The Comics Journal or Comic Art Magazine, you’re probably familiar with this striking new animated French film which features some of the most talented comics talents in the world. We’re really fortunate to get an extended screening of this in Toronto, and I hope everyone reading this gets a chance to check it out. Here’s the description:
“A wildly inventive and visually dazzling collection of fearful tales by six of the world’s most renowned comic and graphic artists – Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Caillou, Pierre Di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti, and Richard McGuire. From a besotted student whose girlfriend is weirdly ardent in her affections, to a Japanese schoolgirl menaced by a long-dead samurai, and a pack of hounds on a bloodthirsty rampage, FEAR(S) has a story strand to trouble every sleep – not to mention a stunning range of animation styles. Shot in shimmering black and white, the six intertwined tales create an unprecedented epic where phobias and nightmares come to life and reveal Fear at its most naked and intense.”
4. The (Edgar) Wright Stuff at the Bloor Cinema! Starts February 28th!
The lovely and talented Edgar Wright (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ) is in town to direct the big-screen adaptation of SCOTT PILGRIM, and we couldn’t be happier. Espescially because he’s going to be programming a full slate of his favourite films at The Bloor Cinema for the month of March! The first two screenings were this weekend, and they were great fun. The next few will no doubt be awesome as well… Check this out:
SUNDAY, MARCH 8
7:00 The Wanderers (Philip Kaufman, 1979)
9:30 The Warriors (Walter Hill, 1979)
SATURDAY, MARCH 14
9:45 Head (Bob Rafelson, 1968)
SUNDAY, MARCH 15
7:00 Dames (Ray Enright & Busby Berkeley, 1934)
9:00 Phantom of the Paradise (Brian De Palma, 1974)
SUNDAY, MARCH 22
5:00 Spaced Marathon (Edgar Wright, 1999-2001)
SUNDAY, APRIL 5
7:00 Kung Fu film TBA
9:30: Drunken Master 2 (Chia-Liang Liu, 1994)
SUNDAY, APRIL 12
7:00 The Brood (David Cronenberg, 1979)
9:00 Last Night (Don McKellar, 1998)
Single movie tickets are $8 for Bloor Cinema members and $11 for non-members. Double bills are $14 for members and $17 for non-members. (Non-member prices include a six-month Bloor membership.) A pass for all screenings is $90, or $75 if not including Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Complete Bloor Cinema info and schedule at its website: http://www.bloorcinema.com/
I didn’t post the press release for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, because I didn’t want to step on the toes of my comics journalist compatriots, but I did want to point out that we just posted our first guestlist update:
We’re pleased to announce that the following Canadian comics creators will be attending The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 9th and 10th 2009: Ho Che Anderson (King), Kate Beaton (History Comics), Andy Belanger (Raising Hell), Joey Comeau & Emily Horne (A Softer World), Tom Fowler (Mysterius), Scott Hepburn (Star Wars), John Martz (Drawn.ca), Kagan McLeod (Infinite Kung-Fu), Ramon Perez (Kukuburi), John C. Ralston, Paul Rivoche, Cameron Stewart (Seaguy), and J. Torres (Batman: Brave and the Bold).
In addition, TCAF is proud to announce that we will be working with Toronto Gallery + Retailer Magic Pony to welcome Tara McPherson to Toronto. Tara McPherson will be participating in a gallery show at Magic Pony and debuting her new artbook and toyline with Kid Robot at TCAF.
These creators rachet the guestlist up to something like 120 artists and authors who will be getting together in Toronto this May to have the most fun allowed by law. I’ve been trying to keep the hype off of my blog here (last year I think it got a little… thick) but I’m super-excited about the show this year, and knee-deep in planning it. As much fun as it is watching the direct market self-destruct (and arguing with folks who think that Nero is fiddling just fine, thanks), my attention will be more-likely-than-not focussed elsewhere for the next few months. Towards doing something cool and positive for the medium. Wish me luck!
Brian Hibbs gets cranky at me because this news casts Direct Market shops in a bad light, when it shouldn’t, because no one is buying any of these books anyway so it doesn’t matter if stores have access to them, even though they’re largely in-print. I declare my aesthetic superiority in the comments.
Tom Spurgeon reframes Hibbs’ argument to point out that, no, really, this is not a good move and a major paradigm-shift for Diamond.
Heidi MacDonald kind of agrees with Hibbs, but she’s been in kind of a doom-and-gloom funk for the past few months, and so she can be forgiven.
So following my last post on the recently completed Naoki Urasawa’s MONSTER, I went for a drink with my friends Derek and Gary, and we shot the shit about the series over beers. I have to say I feel a lot better about the ending having bounced my thoughts off of a couple of smart, well-read comics fans.
Essentially, I wasn’t sure if all of the plot threads that had been developed had actually woven together in the end. My biggest problem was that the exact nature of the lessons were never really revealed. We even got to see into them at one point, but it seemed to be mostly recitations of a few songs and books… I ended up filling in the gaps, realising that the same sort of subliminal manipulation that Johan had been using throughout the series is the same way that he was manipulated, that the books/songs were part of that… but considering the volume of… data… dumped on the reader in the last few volumes, it would’ve been nice to get more than a peak through a partially-opened door. But yeah, I made my peace, and the theme of tearing down society being repeated from small to large (Johann manipulating individual children, the orphanage, the cartels, and finally a whole town) helped put all of it into perspective.
The other thing that bothered me was the cross-dressing. It was immediately obvious to me that Nina and Johann were switched during the scenes with the children being taken away to the Rose Mansion the first time, that it was Nina that was “awakened” and that Johan was fucked up in other ways, but I don’t understand why they were both dressed as girls as children. I suppose it’s because their mom would’ve gotten kicked out if she had two children rather than one? I don’t remember that being addressed though, and it just struck me as a little “surprise for surprise’s sake.”
Finally, I had a general sense of unease about the very ending, the conversation between Tenma and the twins’ mother, and the ‘conversation’ between Tenma and Johan. Essentially, I thought the former should have been more explicit, and the latter seemed like a cheat. My friend Derek put forth the theory that the conversation between Tenma and Johan really didn’t happen, and instead, Tenma’s dream was actually the content of his conversation with the mother. Johan wouldn’t have known about the mother’s decision. That kind of works, for me, but it requires some logical leaps that aren’t really in the story. I’m inclined to be more foregiving because I enjoyed everything up to the end very much, MONSTER is really a fantastic page-turning read, but I also feel it’s the kind of series that, because it turned on its plot reveals, needed an ending that was really conclusive and put all of the toys back in the box. Abhay has the right idea in the comments section:
“I was really disappointed with Monster’s ending when I read it, but having looked at it again since, I think it’s an okay set of chapters on its own terms, that just suffers just in terms of the expectations that are built going into it, based upon 17 previous books with more at stake. On its own terms it’s as thoughtful and entertaining as any previous episode– just as an ending, I felt disappointed.” – Abhay
…and then I stopped writing. I got distracted by the site re-design, and my manga industry posts, and tenthousand other things. And now it is February 16th and I have something to add.
Since beginning to write a follow-up on my reaction to Monster, I’ve had a chance to really ruminate on the series and discuss it with people. A good number of my customers read this site now, and so they’ll come in to the store after reading something I’ve written here and ask me questions like “So you didn’t like Monster’s ending… should I keep reading it?” and my gut reaction is “Yes, of course.” Not because I’m a salesperson (heh) but because when I think about the time I spent reading Monster, I realize that I really, really enjoyed it. My disatisfaction with the ending was for what I thought were very specific reasons, but the ending very clearly didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the rest of it. And! And the more I thought about it, the more I really enjoyed it.
Okay, I’m going to stop talking in bold.
So, I went back and read the comments to my last post on Monster a couple of times and I think that, really, there are different readings of the series and some of them work and some of them don’t. Myk, one of the commenters, said this:
Well, it’s been something like two years since I read Monster, but I always thought that, as much as it is a riff on the classic “innocent fugitive wants to prove his innocence” theme, it is also an allegorical take on the creation process of an author.
Case in point, the huge role that books play in the second half of the series, how theMonster is created and all that. I saw Tenma and Johann as the two main forces an author has to fight with, when creating a work of fiction.
Tenma - the good guy – as the author’s side that is necessarily in love with the characters he created, who wants to preserve them, save them and keep the safe from harm.
Johann on the other hand as the destructive force, that knows that there must be destruction, tragedy, to propell the story forward to a conclusion.
So is Monster just an author’s extended internal monologue on how to treat his creations? Might be. Might be I’m reading too much into it. But at the very least I think people are not giving Urasawa quite as much credit as would be due. – Myk
And that’s fair. And the more I think about it, I do think that judging the series entirely on how it sets up, and then follows-through, on the plot is maybe not entirely fair to the work. Or as Myk said, extending enough credit to the author. I know that in the one comic I’ve written in the last 20 years, the plot wasn’t nearly as important as emotion and resonance, and so maybe I should extend the same consideration to the author?
Further, as you can see above I really was starting to come around on the plot, that most of my initial problems with how it came together worked themselves out once I was able to start a dialogue about the work. Sort of like an impromptu book-club, discussing the work to see if it succeeded or not. In short, I think Naoki Urasawa’s Monster is a successful series (though not without its problems), and I feel a lot better about it now then after I read the whole series in a single day (surprise, surprise). I’ve got no problem recommending it to folks, and I’ll be keeping copies of all 18 volumes on my bookshelf, to be re-read again sometime (maybe with a bit of a break between volumes though…).
Thanks to everyone who chimed in with their thoughts on the series both in the comments and at the store!
So lost in the insanity of my last few weeks was the news that Diamond Comics Distributors is de-listing 1018 different products published by Viz, including nearly 1000 different manga volumes. The books will no longer be available through Diamond whatsoever, although these books will still be available through bookstore channels. Here’s the official announcement from Diamond which ran on their website on January 12th 2009, phrased as a “Sale” for comic book store retailers:
VIZ Media has announced a sale on a wide selection of its manga volumes and anime DVDs, whereby retailers can save XX% off the SRP of those items while supplies last.
With more than 1,000 products offered at this discount, retailers that carry manga and anime should find this to be the perfect time to replenish their store’s stock. Among the many popular titles included in the sale are Bleach, Castle in the Sky, Dragonball, Fullmetal Alchemist, Inu Yasha, Mobile Suit Gundam and Naruto.
Click here [link removed] to see a full list of VIZ Media manga and anime titles that are included in this sale.
As mentioned, this sale on these items will run until stock levels for those items are depleted. After that time, they will no longer be available for reorder or back order, so retailers are encouraged to stock up without delay.
The list includes more than 100 different series of manga, including still-running series like Zatch Bell, Whistle, Ultimate Muscle, Prince of Tennis, Inu Yasha Animanga, Hoshin Engi, Crimson Hero, Case Closed, Beyblade, Beet The Vandel Buster, and Bastard, amongst many others.
Perhaps most importantly to readers of this site, this list also includes some of my favourite comics of all time, including Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond, Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix, Takao Saito Golgo 13, and Kazuo Umezu’s Drifting Classroom.
No announcement has been made about new volumes of any of these series, leading me to believe that the books will continue to be solicited as normal (I wonder if they’ll make the new cut-off!?) and then be purged periodically as here.
Here’s where I editorialize: Are You Fucking Kidding Me? I don’t think much else needs to be said. This move is, frankly, unbelievable. I knew about this when writing my post about the Diamond minimums and didn’t really realize it hadn’t been made public yet, it certainly informed my post, specifically my assertion that Diamond Comics Distributors can no longer effectively distribute comics… Unreal.
DISCLAIMER: In deference to my esteemed employer, I would like to point out to all customers of The Beguiling that we have found alternate distribution sources for all Viz products, and will continue to deliver all of the affected books to our various customers as long as they remain in print, and probably for years after. So, at least at our store you’ve got nothing to worry about.
The full list of de-listed manga (and books and DVDs) is visible after the cut, unless you’re reading this on feed, in which case you might want to hit NEXT.
So I twittered excitedly when I heard the news, but just to follow up, I’m really happy that this:
…is coming to North America! Taiyo Matsumoto’s original graphic novel (a real rarity in Japan…) Go Go Monster! is a book I’ve personally been looking forward to seeing for years. Back in the day, a website I was visiting when I was researching Matsumoto put up the then-new television commercials (!) for this book, and it was the distillation of that desire for the unknown that I feel feeds a lot of what I love about manga. Youtube has one of the commercials:
I’ve had copies in my hand a couple of times, in Japan I decided another heavy hardcover book was probably a bad purchase and so I left it on the shelf when I was buying one of everything Matsumoto… Mostly because the book has been widely available in French-language translation for years now and we’ve had copies at the store pretty regularly. But I held out hope for an English edition, and lo! And Behold! We’ll all have a chance to pick it up this fall. I’ll try not to be obnoxious in recommending it.
Meanwhile! New work from Taiyo Matsumoto wasn’t the extent of Viz’s new license announcements. Most websites have run with the lead story–New Work From Rumiko Takahashi! I like Ms. Takahashi’s work a great deal, but seeing her work in English, at this point, is something of an inevitability. No, I was much more interested in seeing that Viz was going to be releasing this:
During my trip to Japan in 2007, I spent a lot of time digging through manga stores like Book-Off and Mandarake, and I visited pretty much every single bookstore we came across. A then-new release caught my eye in several of the stores, and–you guessed it!–it was Not Simple by Natsume Ono. Funnily enough, I actually bought it TWICE while I was there for two weeks, because everywhere I went I kept picking it up, being amazed by it, and then putting it back down… or so I thought. It’s a really interesting book, it reminds me a little bit of Sexy Voice and Robo which Viz published a few years back. The storytelling is superb, very easy to follow even in another language. I also found myself drawn to the art style, which uses heavy blacks and simple lines to communicate a wide range of body-language and emotions, it’s great. I also figured out that Ono also does yaoi and gay-themed work under the nom-de-plume “Basso”, and I bought up a bunch of that as well. Heh, I actually bought a couple of books of her work at the New York Book-Off this past weekend before I heard the good news. So despite having paged-through this one 3 or 4 times already, I’m pretty darned excited about really reading it for the first time.
Christopher Butcher lives in Toronto, Canada. He is the manager of the world-famous comic book store The Beguiling, in addition to being a freelance writer and the co-founder of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Contact him at chrisatbeguilingdotcom.