Welcome to the new Comics212.net

chrisbutcher.jpgWell, that’s better.

A few years ago I realised that what I wanted from a comics website wasn’t what I was providing, and that it was time to put up or shut up. So, for the most part I shut up, not having the time, energy, or ability to put together the kind of site I would hold in high regard. Quite a few new blogs and various websites have stepped up to the plate, and for that I’m grateful, but if I’m going to be applying for those ‘Journalist’ passes to get into comic conventions, it’d help to have a professional-looking website, eh?

Enter my friend Nadine, who in no-time at all whipped up what you see before you: a new WordPress-driven blog that will allow me the versatility and functionality to do something great. Thanks to Nadine for the hard work, and to all of you reading who, whether you knew it or not, shaped my decision-making process. I hope you like it, but if you don’t there’s a whole-new comments section to bitch into 🙂

Thanks for reading,

– Christopher

2007 – The Year Ahead!

A handy guide to stalking me…

So my first piece of advice for 2007? Don’t get sick, ever. I’m currently behind on every single project I’m involved in. Some only minimally, some massively, and one in particular I may have completely blown. If you’re reading this Anne, I’m sorry…

Things are shaping up for the year though, with lots of freelance in the offing (writing, lettering, whatever) and lots of other big plans. I figured it’s been long enough without a post that I better do something, and writing up my schedule for the year will be nice for both of us, dear reader. Maybe you’ll learn something about me!

January 29th: New Blog – Keep your eyes peeled Monday, and make sure to update your RSS feeds.

February 20th: Bryan Lee O’Malley at TPL – As part of Toronto’s Keep Toronto Reading month, The Toronto Public Library is bringing in library-friendly graphic novelist Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim) to do an on-stage interview/presentation that I might be co-hosting? It’s at 6:30pm at North York Central Library, but I’ll be inundating you with reminders about that soon enough… I’m going to see if I can talk him into previewing the first chapter of Scott Pilgrim 4 there, which will make it a can’t-miss event. View the schedule of events at http://www.keeptorontoreading.ca/

February 22nd-26th: New York Comic Con – I’ll be participating at a couple of panels at this year’s NYCC and blogging from the floor again. It should be a lot of fun, I think. The only announced panel appearance so far is “The Buyers Panel” retailers-only programming on the 22nd. I think I’ll be on a few though, and wandering around for the rest of the time. Oh, and speaking of wandering around, I’ve got the better-part of a day to kill on Monday, so if anyone wants to hang out lemmie know. http://www.nycomiccon.com

comics festFebruary 27th: COMICS FESTIVAL 2007! Orders due – The last Tuesday in February is the last day that retailers can place their orders for COMICS FESTIVAL 2007, the Free Comic Book Day Offering that I’m co-editing with Chip Zdarsky. Darwyn Cooke, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Hope Larson, and many, many more contributors. Plus the book will be half-colour, and feature one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in a FCBD comic, a secret I don’t wanna give away just yet. Comics Festival 2007 is going to be the book to get on FCBD, believe-you-me. Please make sure to tell your retailer that you wanna see copies of this one in… Going up against 45 other comics is kind of… completely insane, and not every retailer is going to splurge on every book. Thanks!

May 5th: Free Comic Book Day – We’ll be doing another big event at The Beguiling! Plus, hopefully Comics Festival 2007 will be available nationwide!

May 25th-27th: Anime North Toronto – The biggest show that we at The Beguiling do all year. It really is something to see, and I think we’re gonna try and do something a little different and a little stupid at AN this year (good-stupid) to up the ante. Last year we brought Ryan North, Bryan Lee O’Malley, and Kean Soo to the event and had a book-launch for Ryan and Mal that weekend. This time out, I’m sure we can come up with something better/crazier and really promote the hell out of TCAF too. http://animenorth.com/

June 8th-10th: Paradise Comics Toronto Comicon – This is the not-evil mainstream comics show in Toronto. Guests include Terry Moore, Matt Wagner, Kaare Andrews, and many more. The Beguiling will be set up as per usual with a good mix of stuff, and a great time is generally had by all attendees at this event. http://www.torontocomicon.com/

June 22nd-24th: MoCCA Art Festival in New York – I never miss a chance to attend MoCCA, as it combines a ton of great comics creators with NEW YORK CITY, and who would want to miss-out on that? Plus, I’ve got my own Fest to promote two months later. I will say that MoCCA is just an amazing show to attend, busy and fun but also surrounded on all sides by business and fun too (not to mention the food). If you’ve never been, it’s worth going. If you can only go to one east-coast show though, uh, scroll down two-entries. http://www.mocca-ny.org

July 5th: I’m turning 30. I’m hoping to throw a bigger party than we did for the wedding. You? Invited!

July 26th-29th: San Diego Comic Con – It’s pretty-much guaranteed that I’ll be at San Diego this year, although I felt a bit aimless at last year’s without being tethered to a booth. Maybe I just need to psych myself up a little more for this one? 4 days though and I still don’t feel like I saw it all… http://www.comic-con.org

August 18th & 19th: The Toronto Comic Arts Festival – Oh, you so totally have to come, it’s going to be amazing. We’re holding it this time out in a 100 year old University building! Three floors! Hundreds of guests! An amazing kick-off party on Friday night! It’s kind of like a non-stop, 3 day party I guess, though I don’t unclench until Sunday night at about 9pm. Details at http://www.torontocomics.com/tcaf. Expect the 2007 website to go live soon, with our preliminary guestlist (note: it’s pretty darned great if you’re a fan of this blog…)

After: It looks like I’m going to Japan in the fall with my hubby for a delayed honeymoon, which will be great. JAPAN. Yay! Also, Christmas, but that one might be just a little too-far-away to think about.

Anyway, thanks for reading this little trip through the future. Here’s hoping you’ll catch me at one of these events and we can raise a glass or two…!

– Christopher

The Best French Manga Not In English

Called out by Bart Beaty

In his newest Conversational Euro-Comics column at Comics Reporter, Bart Beaty provides an overview of the forthcoming “Angouleme Essential Awards”, to be handed out at Festival International de la Bande Dessinee. It’s a great article and totally essential reading, so hurry up and go read it. He also name-checks me in the article, when talking about the manga entries on the 50-volume list of books elligible for the top prize:
“Manga is also well-represented by Avant la prison (Kazuichi Hanawa), Gyo (Junji Ito), In the Clothes Named Fat (Moyoco Anno), Jacaranda (Kotobuki Shiriagari), Ki-Itchi (Hideki Arai), Non Non Ba (Shigeru Mizuki), Sorcieres (Daisuke Igarashi), and Zipang (Kaiji Kawaguchi). I’m not sure which of these seven series is available in English (I’m sure Chris Butcher or Dirk Deppey can help us there).” – Bart Beaty, Comics Reporter.
So I figured, why not? Let’s talk about which manga are or are not available in English.

Avant la Prison, by Kazuichi Hanawa. Hanawa’s Doing Time is published in English by Fanfare Ponent-Mon, and it’s a monotonous, unflinching portrayal of life in a Japanese prison. While it’s considered a fairly difficult read, I can definitely recommend it as a unique and engrossing manga. This volume acts as something of a prequel to Doing Time, and we all hope to see it follow Doing Time to the shelves… Eh, Stephen?

Gyo, by Junji Ito. As readers of this blog are aware, Junji Ito’s Gyo is published in English by Viz LLC, and books 1 & 2 were released in the 6×9 format in 2003 and 2004. Generally considered inferior to his Uzumaki series, Gyo has an aborted finish, but does deliver some truly terrifying visuals and moments (Sharks… WITH LEGS!). Also available from Junji Ito are Museum Of Terror Volumes 1-3 published by Dark Horse.

In the Clothes Named Fat, by Moyoco Anno. Despite an English title, this single-volume manga by Moyoco Anno is not available in English. It seems like a book worth translating though, as it deals with a woman who tries to lose weight to interest a man, and the body-image-related downward spiral she enters. Luckily for you reader, Moyoco Anno has been published in English before. A lot, actually: Happy Mania from Tokyopop features a desperate 20-something woman looking to settle down and find the right man, but Mr. Right-now will do; Flowers & Bees from Viz actually deals with body-image issues amongst men in a humourous way; Sugar Sugar Rune from Del Rey Publishing is an all-ages affair that has young witches breaking boys’ hearts for power; Anno even has a cute short-story in Japan: As Viewed By 17 Creators published by Fanfare Ponent-Mon.

Jacaranda, by Kotobuki Shiriagari. Totally and completely unavailable in English, and probably pretty unlikely to become so. This single volume appears to be a meditation on the human condition as viewed through the lense of the apocalypse–a giant plant grows up in Tokyo overnight oblitterating the city–but actually might just be a comedy, pages and pages of death and destruction included. I hope we order a copy of this into my store to look at, hint hint.

Ki-Itchi, Hideki Arai. Man, this is so unlikely to come out in English. Evar. Volume 1 is about a hyper-violent three year old boy who doesn’t show any emotions and is constantly lashing out at the world. It’s sort of a more-realisitically drawn Dark Crayon Shin-chan you know? Then, at the beginning of the second volume his parents are killed by a mugger and he’s left with no family and no understanding of what happened. Fierce socio-political commentary. I would totally, totally buy this if it were in English.

Non Non Ba, by Shigeru Mizuki. Oh wow. So I didn’t recognize the name, but following a viewing of the Takeshi Miike movie “The Great Yokai War” I did a little bit of digging on “yokai”, the various Japanese forest spirits and demons that make up Japanese mythology. It turns out that Shigeru Mizuki is probably the best-known manga-ka of yokai stories, and his ‘Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro’ is considered a shonen horror classic. NonNonbâ appears to be Mizuki’s newest manga, another yokai tale about a boy who befriends a yokai and the problems it causes to his day-to-day life. Sounds really neat, actually, and seeing as we got some of Kazuo Umezu’s excellent classic horror manga this year with Drifting Classroom from Viz, I think some Mizuki would go down nicely…!

Sorcieres, by Daisuke Igarashi. This would be known as “Witch” in English (making it, what, property #4 with that title?), but isn’t currently known as anything because it ain’t in English. We just got a copy of this book in this week at The Beguiling, because it was actually recommended by Black & White creator Taiyo Matsumoto in the back of the sixth French edition of his No. 5 series. Confluence! The plot seems a bit… magical such and such quest for grown-ups, but the art is lovely. It’s like a sketchy euro-Otomo, where every drawing looks absolutely effortless and dashed-off, until you realise that a) they’re beautiful, and b) he is not drawing easy-to-draw things. Absolutely beautiful, and I could totally see Dark Horse picking this up and fitting it seemlessly into their current slate of releases. YOU HEAR ME, CARL? 🙂

Zipang, by Kaiji Kawaguchi. You’re totally unlikely to see this this in English, as Kawaguchi’s previous English-language manga, the excellent socio-political drama Eagle from Viz, did not do well. This series, about a navy battleship from the Japanese Self-Defence Forces transported back to WWII, sounds like a gripping, mature story of tough choices and tougher consquences. So, TS, buy more Naruto.

There you go Bart, et al. I hope you enjoy this little run down of great manga that I cannot read as much as I enjoyed researching it all, only to find out after-the-fact that there’s an English-language description of most of these books in a Festival Program (right click save as) and that David Welsh covered some of this in his column 4 weeks ago. Le Sigh.

– Christopher