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:

kago tract 1000px


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, & 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. 

Comme des Garcons X Katsuhiro OTOMO X NoBrow

Very good catch and nice little report by Zainab Akhtar at The Beat on the new  Comme des Garcons X Katsuhiro OTOMO X NoBrow collaboration. Apparently NoBrow’s exact participation wasn’t made very clear, but Akhtar did some actual follow-up reporting and got the scoop. Head over there and check it out.

Tons of the actual collab images are currently circulating around Tumblr. You can find a bunch with this link, but feel free to explore as well. Some of my favourites below.

– Chris

Please Read: “Little Heart” Kickstarter Needs You

Hey folks. I was invited to write an introduction for a very special comics anthology, called Little Heart: A Comic For Marriage Equality. It’s going to be 160+ pages of comics from a wealth of talented individuals, lending their talents in support of marriage equality. This anthology is trying to be funded by Kickstarter, and there’s only about a week left.

I’ll be honest, it’s not near its fundraising goal but with just a little help it absolutely could be. This book features new comics by Maurice Vellekoop, Emily Carrol, Zak Sally, MariNaomi, Joseph Remnany, Jeremy Sorese, Noah Van Sciver, Michael DeForge, and over a dozen more amazing contributors. Also, I’m writing the introduction!

For $20 you can get a copy of the book, and all you need is to start a Kickstarter account (free, takes 2 minutes) and an Amazon account (everyone has one of these, right?). But the rewards for this comic are insane if you want to donate more! For $100 you could get the book and original drawings by Dustin Harbin or Noah Van Sciver! For $250 you could get a copy of the book and a “date with the artist” of one of the stories! For $400 you could get a copy of the book and an original comics page by Maurice Vellekoop (and as his art dealer I can tell you that’s a great deal!).

In short, this is a great cause, there are some truly excellent comics in this anthology, and I hope you will head over and sign up for a copy through Kickstarter because if you’re the sort of person reading this on this particular site, then you’re definitely the sort of person who will get more out of this than the money you put into it.

In the next post, I’m going to post the first draft of my introduction to this book, for a fuller picture of why this book, and the fight for marriage equality, are important to me.

– Chris

Japan: Tradition. Innovation. @ Canadian Museum of Civilization, May 20th, 2011

Japan: Tradition. Innovation.
May-October 2011. Opens May 20th, 2011.
Canadian Museum of Civilization
100 Laurier Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0M8
(Just on the other side of the river from Ottawa)

So, I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this on the blog, but one of the coolest things I did last year was act as a special consultant on popular culture to The Canadian Museum of Civilization, for their new exhibit on Japan opening this week. Japan: Tradition. Innovation. is a unique look at the Edo-period origins of contemporary Japanese technology and design. Focusing specifically on consumer goods–things that we interact with every day–the show breaks down 400 years of cultural innovation into five themes; travel, automation, social status, consumer culture, and entertainment. Comparing woodblock prints to manga, contemporary Japanese street-fashion with armour and traditional garb, robots to mechanized dolls–it’s all cool stuff.

I specifically helped acquire materials for the manga and anime collections, including first-editions, cels, and some cool ephermera. I’m excited to see how it’s been placed into the context of the larger collection. It was an amazing opportunity to dig through all kinds of cool old manga and anime at Mandarake during my last visit to Japan (Oct/Nov 2010), divorced from my normal concerns of finding cool stuff to bring back to The Beguiling. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a bunch of first-edition Tezuka manga at the store, but I doubt they’d sell with the expediency that we’d need them too to make any sort of profit. Buying for a museum has a very different set of criteria. Oh, and as a special note, I’d like to thank everyone who helped me identify some of those pieces, it was very cool of you and I really appreciate it. Feel free to ask me for a favour in future.

Oh, and speaking of The Beguiling, the awesome comic and graphic novel store which I manage, we also acted as a sponsor of the exhibit! We’ve donated hundreds of manga to the exhibition’s “reading room”, which is essentially a wall of manga you can hang out and read at. It’s also roughly 50/50 French-language and English-language translations of Japanese material, which means we could include a bunch of stuff not yet available in English. I feel really good about the mix of manga included too, because it covers not only popular and contemporary series, but also classics, “art-oriented” works, and works that seek to explain certain Japanese customs, aspects of the culture, and traditions through manga. Oishinbo is as prominently displayed as Naruto, A Drifiting Life and The Rose of Versailles and Doraemon all getting equal face-time. So exciting!

The exhibit has a special opening this Thursday, May 19th at 6pm, for Museum members and the press only. I’m going to be there to see the public’s reaction to it for the first time, and I’m pretty excited! If anyone from the Ottawa/Montreal area will be there and would like to get-together and talk manga, drop me a line! If you can’t make it this week, don’t worry, the show’s on until October and I’m hoping we can put together some exciting programing at the Museum featuring manga and anime experts and professionals over the course of the summer. I’m also going to try to do a report on the exhibit here on the blog, if I can manage to remember my camera. 🙂

For more on the exhibit, check out

– Christopher


Just a quick note that I have an utterly not-comics-related blog at and I’ve been talking about Christmas Music, which I love, over the past 5 days if you are interested. If you are not, do not worry. I will continue posting here too. 😀

– Chris

Drew Weing’s Set To Sea Art For Sale…!

Drew Weing first came to my attention as an Autobiographical Cartoonist documenting his education in Savannah College of Art’s Comics Program, and I really loved those strips! Over the years he’s produced a number of wonderful webcomics, minis, and short pieces (mostly available at his website), and August saw his first full-length graphic novel SET TO SEA released by Fantagraphics. It’s a great read and a gorgeously illustrated book, I definitely recommend it.

Mr. Weing announced today that he is, in fact, selling off original artwork from the graphic novel, and considering how lovely it is (and that each pages is a 4.5″ x 5″ single panel, suitable for framing) I imagine the majority of the art for this book will be scooped up by fans and collectors imminently–I know I want more than a couple of them.

Check out the sale ($145 a page!!!) at

– Christopher

Minneapolis & San Francisco: Check Our Your Indie Press

Hey readers in far away lands! There are two really cool looking events coming up in the next few weeks that, were I anywhere near them, I would totally go check them out. Since you’re reading this blog I figure you’re at least a little like me, so maybe you wanna check’em out too…?!

Minneapolis Indie Xpo
Saturday August 21st, 2010 (THIS WEEKEND)
@ The Soap Factory
518 Southeast 2nd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55458

“The Minneapolis Indie Xpo was founded in 2010 as a one-day show celebrating independent comics and Midwest cartoonists. It grew out of the local comics community’s desire to have its own venue for exhibition and was cobbled together by two veteran event coordinators who happen to be big comics fans.  You can call us “MIX” and, as the name implies, expect a bake sale at the show.”

Special guests include Chris (Dr. McNinja) Hastings, Zander and Kevin Cannon (Big Time Attic), John (King-Cat) Porcellino, Aaron (“Walker Bean”) Renier, and dozens more!

San Francisco Zine Fest
Saturday September 4 and Sunday September 5
@ The County Fair Bulding (formerly Hall of Flowers)
9th Ave. at Lincoln Way (in Golden Gate Park)

“SF Zine Fest is a FREE annual two-day conference for independent and underground publishing. Exhibitors come from all over the West Coast, and while the focus is on zines, all walks of DIY life are represented — comics, arts and crafts, literary presses, and more. SF Zine Fest was founded in 2002 by Jenn of Starfiend Distro.”

Special guests include Artnoose (Ker-Bloom!), Jesse Reklaw (Slow Wave), and V. Vale (Search & Destroy).

Check out the website, make your plans!

– Christopher

More on this a little later, but: Wow, good news!

An international coalition of Japanese and American-based manga publishers have joined together to combat what they call the “rampant and growing problem” of scanlations, the practice of posting scanned and translated editions of Japanese comics online without permission of the copyright holders. The group is threatening legal action against 30 scanlation sites.

The effort brings together the 36 member Japanese Digital Comic Association—which includes such major Japanese houses as Kodansha, Shogakukan and Shueisha—as well as manga publisher Square Enix, the Tuttle-Mori Agency and U.S.-based manga publishers Vertical Inc, Viz Media, Tokyopop and Yen Press, the manga/graphic novel imprint of the Hachette Book Group.

A spokesperson for the coalition said the effort shows that Japanese publishers—who license the majority of manga sold in the U.S.—are taking an aggressive interest in combating manga piracy outside of Japan as well as inside the country.

– From the article at Publishers Weekly

Well that’s pretty good news, I’d say…! I’ll probably have thoughts on this later.

– Chris