THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (12/8/10 – As luck would have it, there’s no money left.)
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Don’t worry yourself too much with the text up top – it’s just one item of many from the recent Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, albeit featuring the artist of my personal favorite comic of 2009, Viz’s English edition of GoGo Monster by the great Taiy? Matsumoto. No no, don’t worry, Matsumoto wasn’t hidden away at some obscure table on the show floor — although you could be forgiven for thinking that, given the huge crowd and the crazy amount of stuff out for perusing — I just subscribe to the longview in comics convention terms. That is: the classic rule of comics show prudence dictates that you spend most of your time with comics you won’t easily be able to find outside the show, and I tend to extend that rule to spending time with comics outside the purview of the show itself that I otherwise won’t be able to access due to the geographical limitations of living in a bed of corn husks.
So Saturday had me at the Brooklyn Con itself — and I plan to write more about that later this week — but then Sunday also had me pursuing an unexpected hook up with old Warren magazines in Manhattan, which I believe is called ‘painting the town red.’ More pertinently to the image above, I also stopped by the Bryant Park location of Kinokuniya to mess around with their new releases rack. I think in the rhetoric surrounding manga and graphic novels and the decline of print format serialization in North American comics, there’s a real tendency to forget that Japanese comics typically don’t just drop on the market as books – there’s still a relatively large system of print serialization at work, not as mighty as it was years ago, no, but I think something like the weekly Big Comic Spirits still enjoys a circulation of a couple hundred thousand, and ‘shelf copies’ of recent issues can be a really fun thing to explore, especially when they’re inviting various luminaries from publishing history to contribute self-contained 30th Anniversary stories that aren’t likely to show up in book form any time soon. Hence: Matsumoto, my purchase of the October 25 issue (#45 for 2010), and the true purpose of the text up top.
Of course, Matsumoto is one of the icons of the international fusion approach to comics much-discussed today, blending a uniquely delicate, curved style of drawing with Moebius and Bilal influence. I can’t read Japanese, so I can’t comment on the writing of Matsumoto’s piece, but the art sees a long-faced swordsman slicing a man’s hand off in painted color, then brooding and running his way through a b&w elsewhere. The style is similar to what I’ve seen of his recently concluded Spirits serial Takemitsu-Zamurai (Bamboo Samurai, written by Issei Eifuku) — and for all I know it could be a side-story set in that series — if somewhat heavier in detailing the character’s bodies, particularly as our viewpoint draws closer to the pained protagonist’s face, gasping dustily through fogs of smeared ink and white paint.
This foregrounds the tactile discomfort of the primary character in a drawn world seemingly pitched closer to the historical and etymological origins of ‘manga,’ in the doodles and sketches of 18th and 19th century print and kiby?shi picture book artists. These are, then, live people sprung from the history of drawing.
Amusingly, such apparent historical concern — especially pertinent for an anniversary celebration! — is shunted away to a small inset on the Spirits cover in favor of modern comic book history’s concern: a shiny new television series adaptation of Yamikin Ushijima-kun, a currently-running serial starring a stylish, hip young loan shark who encounters the drama of urban poverty, from artist Shouhei Manabe, who had a done-in-one crime comic called Smuggler released in English by Tokyopop a few years back. Yamikin Ushijima-kun gets two of the issue’s sparse remaining color areas, one for the comic (and a matching image from the television series) and one for a swimsuit/underwear showcase with an actress from the show. A bonus dvd likewise splits itself between scenes from the show and its production and a slightly greater amount of footage from the swimsuit/underwear shoot, wordless and set to mall jazz. It occurs to me that if comics were actually ‘mainstream’ around here we’d probably wind up bumping into more of this kind thing, and not in a tittering Mark Millar style. I’m talking mall jazz.
Toys and discs and goodies are a helpful means of keeping readers’ eyes on the prize, in terms of serialization – or, it works in Japan, where there’s a long-lived publication tradition in place, backed by enough of a bookshelf presence that 350+ page major publisher anthologies like Spirits can show up every week for under seven bucks. I was also eying some moe-blob magazine, phonebook-thick with wee lil’ cartoon girls and their inordinately large breasts staring up from the cover, and a fat red Mystery Package crammed deep into its guts. I never can quite resist a Mystery Package, although the 18 AND OVER ONLY stamp on the shrink wrap filled my head with terrifying visions of getting tagged with a random luggage search and subsequently thrown off my train into an unlit region of New Jersey. I’m lucky enough I evaded the bomb-sniffing dogs, which could easily have detected my copies of The Rook.
Anyway, here’s this week’s comic explosion back home:
Polly and Her Pals: Complete Sunday Comics, 1925-1927: Very potentially nice project from IDW here, a 12″ x 16″ hardcover presentation of some prime Cliff Sterrett color work. I believe this is kicking off a series of chronological Sunday volumes to proceed from ’27, with a collection of daily materials to follow; $75.00.
Orc Stain Vol. 1: I hadn’t even realized this was due until somebody told me at the show this weekend, but yeah – a handy trade paperback compilation of the first five issues from James Stokoe’s lovely fantasy series, joining an underground-honed conversational sense with the expansive action scope of booming manga; $17.99.
The Lodger: A new slice of visual heavy realism from Karl Stevens, joining strips from Boston’s The Phoenix with paintings and other stuffs to explore a point of crucial transition in a young man’s life as he loses his apartment and his personal life shifts. I liked this review by Rob Clough; $19.95.
Who Will Comfort Toffle?: A Tale of Moomin Valley: Being the next in Drawn and Quarterly’s line of Moomin materials, another colorful children’s book from Tove Jansson, focusing on a shy sort who seeks some point of access to the world. Preview; $16.95.
Magnus, Robot Fighter Vol. 1: Dark Horse has a whole bunch of reprint books out this week — there’s some Al Williamson in the Flash Gordon Comic Book Archives vol. 2, primarily collecting materials from the King comic book series, and Frank Thorne is present for the Mighty Samson Archives vol. 2 — but I’d like to draw attention to a reprint-of-a-reprint, i.e. a less-expensive softcover edition of the publisher’s 2004 Dark Horse Archives edition of issues #1-7 of the 1963 Russ Manning creation. Neck chops forever! Samples; $19.99.
Little Lulu’s Pal Tubby Vol. 2: The Runaway Statue and Other Stories: Meanwhile, Dark Horse also continues its line of John Stanley-related items, this time focusing on “never–before–reprinted” comics, some of which might be the same ones Drawn and Quarterly reprinted in their own Tubby hardcover from earlier this year (that’s issues #9-12), although Dark Horse is no longer noting the exact contents of this volume on its site. Samples; $15.99.
Slam Dunk Vol. 13 (of 31): Hmm, I think I agree with Andrew White that this high ’90s Takehiko Inoue series is a fine genre comic indeed – and given that Vagabond remains on pause while the English editions of Real are rapidly closing in on the Japanese limit, it might be the most we see of Inoue for a good while; $9.99.
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: New World #5 (of 5): Just a note that this energetic installment of the super-extended Hellboy chronicles is wrapping up with lots of great action shit happening. Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Guy Davis, Dave Stewart. Preview; $3.50.
Northlanders #35: Just a note that this Brian Wood-written Vertigo series is taking on artist Becky Cloonan for a pair of issues concerning the events accordant to the discovery of a frozen corpse in Iceland; $2.99.
God the Dyslexic Dog Vol. 3 (of 3): Heh, I sure showed The Rook up there. You’ll never terrorize our fair magazine racks again, the late Bill DuBay! Actually, at the Brooklyn con proper I found myself stuttering out a semi-okay-not-really-a-defense of DuBay and Alex Niño to Thriller fan extraordinaire Michel Fiffe; the duo (first DuBay, then Niño) replaced the much-admired original team of Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden on the 1983-84 DC cult series, which I’ve always seen as a fascinating transposition of one tradition to another, in that DuBay was by far the prime writing force in the Warren magazines for the second half of their existence — both in terms of scriptwriting and heavily editing other writers’ materials — and Niño had become one of his most frequent collaborators. Thriller started in 1983, the same year the Warren magazines blinked from existence; I believe both DuBay and Niño had departed by that point, but it’s interesting that the grim, ragged, horror-is-despair-is-everything ethos of the rather extensive counter-mainstream the Warren magazines embodied for North American comics momentarily threatened to reconstitute itself in the form of an oddball color DC series minus its original creators, like a ghost possessing some hapless corporeal form, albeit in a superhero-centric world where such diabolism is common. It didn’t work, but nothing is certain in horror stories of the Warren ilk.
All of this is a long way of pointing out that Niño is still active, and just now reaching the end of a longform series written by Philip & Brian Phillipson, which embodied its own time by starting off as a comic book-format b&w series in 2004 before moving into an all-color bookshelf format. It’s a philosophic sprawler about neglected gods and crucial beasts of the earth and humans pulled by the leash. Official site; $19.95.