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I'll admit, I haven't exactly been taking this situation seriously. My initial reaction has been "if it looks like porn, and is by a creator whose best known work is porn" you have to make a very persuasive argument that all the fan service (which is far more extreme than anything I'm used to seeing in similar titles, not to mention the rape) is integral to the story in order to convince me that it isn't actually porn. And so far, no one has really managed to do that. But, okay, okay, I'll take the word of all the outraged manga fans out there, and I'll accept that this title isn't porn. That still leaves me with my most serious question, why did DC think that this title would be a good fit with their corporate culture? Unfortunately, since DC now seems to not want to talk about the book at all, and just wants the whole issue to go away, it doesn't look like we're ever going to get an answer. So, yes, editing the book was an incredibly stupid decision on DC's part, and it has created such negative publicity and ill-will it may have very well killed their manga line. But I can't help but think that DC would rather have a bunch of manga fans writing angry posts on message boards and blogs than Bill O'Reilly doing a segment on "DC Comics, publishers of Superman, are selling porn to your kids" as images from an unedited Tenjo Tenge flash on the screen. Which could very well have happened if the wrong person got their hands on the book and it was a slow news day.
I know exactly how this one happened. Viz didn't want a repeat of this. If Scholastic does your school's book fair, you can't get Shonen Jump because one kid in Pennsylvania had an over-sensitive parent. So even though the Shonen Jump Advanced line is supposed to be for teens and up, this is America we're talking about, where a middle-aged woman's nipple being seen for a split-second at a football game nearly destroyed civilization as we know it. So boobies are bad. So, again, bad decision, sure to upset fans, but I'm sure Viz would rather deal with angry people on message boards and blogs than more angry parents or negative national publicity on a slow news day. And as far as edits go, pasting two tiny little stars over exposed nipples is probably both the least offensive way to "clean up" the image, and also the best way to highlight the breasts in the first place. Were I in a deconstructive mood, I might suggest that the person who actually did the edit may have been well aware of that.
This is a far more serious case of editing on Viz's part. Given the content of the book, and given the overall tone of their shojo line, mature content and situations have been par for the course. In fact, I was rather under the impression that the whole point of the Shojo Beat line was to offer shojo titles aimed at a younger audience than most of their shojo output. So to significantly edit a sex scene, to the point of unintelligibility, that wasn't all that explicit in the first place, in a series that has already had graphic violence and strong sexual suggestiveness, is really baffling. And there's a cynical part of me that wonders if the characters in question had been an underage boy and girl, rather than two underage boys, would the scene have been left unchanged? I'd hope not, but teen sexuality is a very tricky subject in America, and most people would rather just pretend that gay teenagers don't exist at all rather than try to deal with their sexuality on top of it. So the best conclusion I can come to, again, is that a manga publisher is trying to shield themselves from negative publicity in the wake of an increasingly puritanical American society, and is willing to brave outrage from fans to do so.
Now, what I'd like to happen, though I don't expect it will, is for DC and Viz to recall the edited volumes of Tenjo Tenge and Descendants of Darkness, publish unedited versions, and give retailers full credit for unsold copes they return to DC. And I'd also like to see them, not apologize, but at least offer up some acknowledgement that the editing was a piss-poor decision. I'm actually okay with the changes to I"s, because they are so minor and trivial, and because anything with the name "Shonen Jump" on it is going to be perceived as a "kids book," and I, also, would rather deal with an angry manga fan with good cause to be angry than an angry parent with too much free time.
Yes, of course there's an aura of faux-authenticity to unflipped manga. Hell, I'd go so far as to say there's an element of fetishization to it. That's part of the appeal. Now, I read a lot of manga, and most of it at this point is unflipped, and whether or not you can read unflipped manga seems to vary from person to person. Some people can pick up "the knack" and some can't. It does require you to think about the layout of the page, and the elements on it, because it is a somewhat counter-intuitive method of reading, at least for those of us trained to read from right to left. But if anything, I think this method of reading, that forces you to think about layout, actually also makes you pay a little more attention to the art-work and the craftsmanship of the artists than reading a traditionally formatted comic does. I notice the differences in manga artists styles and techniques far more readily than I do the differences in your average super-hero artists work, precisely because I'm paying more attention to the pages. And it seems to me that leaving the work in the formatting that the original artist intended, and putting a little more effort into reading it, isn't too much to ask of people.
Manga is bad for girls
Severalveryintelligentpeople have already weighed in on the subject. This is one of those very rare situations of debate online in which all the participants are arguing with sincerity and with good, well-reasoned points backed with textual and anecdotal evidence. I almost have nothing to say, other than to point out that everyone's right and nobody's wrong. Yes, lots of manga titles have bad role models, not just for girls but for everyone. And yes, some people will always mistake bad role models for good ones. And some people are not mature enough to look at a work of fiction and not realize that it shouldn't be a model for real life behavior. But the problem isn't in the fiction, it's the reaction to the fiction, and the solution is to try to encourage people to be better readers, more aware readers, and most importantly, readers capable of critically thinking about what they're reading. And that's not a problem that can be fixed by asking for better or more socially conscious manga. That's a problem that can only be fixed by improving the general levels of discourse and education in the country as a whole.
What my actual problem with "American Manga" is
Now, let me say first off, that a good deal of the material that Tokyopop has on their schedule by American creators does look like it's quality material. Well, okay, except for Sokora Refugees, but that's a manga controversy I don't even want to get into. But I have a gut reaction against the very concept of "American manga," and perhaps it's unfair, but most of the time when I look at it I see work that has placed the superficial aspects of the art style over the substance of the story. It's like trying to write like Donald Barthelme without understanding why he wrote the way he did, you just like the way his words are laid out across the page. The closest work I can think of that actually approaches the substance of manga story-telling, without aping the style, is Oni's line of original graphic novels. In that line they've grasped the idea of branching out the number of genres, and give you a substantial amount of story, and their romance titles have actual emotional resonance. Also, in my mind at least, the very idea of "American manga" always makes me think primarily of Antarctic Press, and the vast majority of the titles they publish are so bad it's almost become a "guilt by association" type of thing. So, yeah, my objection to "American manga" is irrational and unfair.
Chris Butcher--I'll keep the fan-bases in mind once we do the final orders. I don't pay too much attention to on-line anime or manga fandom. If I did, I suspect I'd go crazy with rage and never want to look at another manga title ever again (they way I often feel about American comics after a bad day at work). I'd also probably have noticed the deep interest in those titles. And no, we can't give the sports manga away. We had a slight interest in Prince of Tennis because a customer was a fan of the anime series, but that's about it.
Re: Oh my Goddess (lots of people had comments on that)--Yes, they do appear to be changing the book to an unflipped format. My gut reaction is that this is "too little, too late" and most fans of the book have already moved on to other titles.
JennyN--No, I was not aware of the on-line interest in the work of the mangaka responsible for Seimaiden, and since our shojo fans in particular pay a lot of attention to anime fandom on-line and in the real world, that probably will affect our ordering. I just finished the first volume of RG Veda, and "raw" is a good word for it. It's definitely not one of their better works, but you can easily see the potential in it.
Matt--Good to know that Yotsuba&! lives up to the promise contained in the solicitations.
Steve Pheley and Jim Kosmicki--I haven't paid too much attention to Chrono Crusade, so my comments on fan service were based on my very brief looks at it as it came into the store. I'm glad to know it's actually an enjoyable book and it's not as fan service heavy as I feared.
Dan Coyle--I actually took a close look at Remote Monday afternoon, and thought that while the police aspects of the story looked promising, the art was a little rough for my taste and the fan service was more pronounced than I really wanted to deal with. I tried to track the number of up-skirt shots of the main character and very quickly lost count. I don't mind a little fan service once in awhile (Tuxedo Gin is one of my favorite manga titles), but it felt a little excessive to me in this book.
Lupin III started out with really strong sales, but now I think we have one subscriber for it, and that's it. I bought the first six or seven volumes, and really enjoyed it, I think Monkey Punch has a great, unique style. But the sameness and repetitiveness of the series just got to be overwhelming and I had to drop it. Plus, they keep pumping out volumes with no end in sight, and it gets to be a bit overwhelming.
BTW, if you still are interested in those Wounded Man volumes, drop me or Mike an e-mail, and we can get the cost/shipping information to you.
"It was very well-written, and the heroes did it to themselves."
In what way?
"By not listening to Ted. By just dismissing him as a joke."
Any other thoughts?
"Do they really have to keep on using killing people as a plot device?"
(I do tend to occasionally use Pete as my sounding-board. He's more of a "typical" comics reader than I am. He's primarily only interested in super-hero books and he pays no attention whatsoever to any comics news or web-sites. So, there's now at least one reaction to the book out there that isn't from a blogger or message-board poster or formed weeks in advance of actually reading the book.)
Six out of nineteen new Marvel titles this week were reprints of some kind. That's excessive. Marvel has now switched over from not reprinting enough material to reprinting too much material.
A new issue of Secret War comes out, and not only is the book months late, but half of the damn thing is pin-ups or "back-story on third from the left character in the background of panel 2, page 12." And at $3.99 a pop, that feels like cheating to me.
The first volume of the "complete" Age of Apocalypse series was released, and the big stories reprinted within are the Blink mini-series and two X-Man specials. This also feels like cheating to me.
Ultimate Secret has six different characters on the cover. Only one of them actually appears in the book.
Oh, and Wizard is now a dollar more expensive, and I don't recall this ever being announced anywhere. So a couple of people this morning got a break on the new issue's price before Kid Chris observed the change.
Oh, and I can't believe that the ghost of Sue Dibney became the new Spectre in DC Countdown!
See what happens when you don't talk about comics for a week and don't read any for three?
IWGP: Ikebukuro West Gate Park Vols. 2 & 3, by Ira Ishida and Sena Aritou: I hadn't been terribly impressed with the first volume of this series. The art was engaging and I could see the quality of the storytelling, but it just wasn't clicking for me. Tom at Digital Manga sent me the next two volumes to read anyway, and I did take a look at them. The familiarity of the characters made it a little easier to get into the story the second time around, and the lead, Makoto, grew on me a little, as he evolves into a kind of low-rent detective/troubleshooter for people who don't have anyplace else to go for help. The resolution of the first volume's murder mystery goes into a very dark place very rapidly and ends on a largely unresolved note. No one comes out of it any the better. The central story of the second volume had me frequently rolling my eyes at the over-the-top sexuality of the characters, as Makoto tries to help a prostitute save her boyfriend from drug-dealing gangsters, and though it ends on a mixed note it feels much more positive. I did find myself drawn into the third volume's main story, as Makoto meets up with a childhood friend, the tomboy who used to beat him up, only to discover that she is now a man and he needs Makoto to help him chase a stalker away from his cam-girl girl-friend. But at the end of the two books I'm left with the same reaction, largely, as I had to the first volume. It's good work, and I can tell it's good work, but it just isn't working for me. The closest analogy I can think of is: do you ever watch Cinemax or Showtime after midnight? The adult dramas and mysteries they show at that time can be quite good sometimes, but you sort of have to want to watch them, and I never really did.
Worst Vol. 3, by Hiroshi Takahashi: There's a bit of Byzantine plotting going on in this volume, as the leaders of Suzuran High and the leaders of Hohsen High prepare to deal with the big battle between schools that everyone sees on the horizon. Of course, good-natured, naive Hana is the focus of everyone's concern. Hana is such an appealing character to me, the book is tremendous fun just waiting to see how he'll react to whatever new situation pops up. As a book in which people do nothing but fight, I know it's a hard sell for lots of people, but the situation is so gloriously over-the-top it has a strong cartoony feel. You're not meant to take it at all seriously, and when you approach it with that in mind the book is great fun.
Fruits Basket Vol. 8, by Natsuki Takaya: For a busy volume, this felt very low-key. Something is up with the prone to violence Haru, the enigmatic Rin is at the center of a good deal of behind the scenes material, and the hyper-sensitive Ritsu Sohma, who has been cursed by the monkey, finally makes an appearance. The meta-plot advances incrementally in this volume, as more ominous hints are dropped about Akito and Shigure and how Tohru fits into their plans, but for the most part this volume is carried along by the gentle humor and the appealing innocence of Tohru.
The Wallflower Vol. 2, by Tomoko Hayakawa: This volume picks up quite a bit from the first one. The story expands, focusing less on the efforts of the four impossibly handsome male leads to transform withdrawn goth girl Sunako into a proper young lady, and introducing a good deal of weirdness to the story, starting with a ghost haunting the basement of the mansion that possess Sunako, and ending on a trip to a hot springs resort that ends in murder. Along the way the personalities of the boys are fleshed out and actual differences between them become apparent. I'm also really enjoying Hayakawa's art-work. It has a very elegant quality mixed with a dark/gothic sensibility, and it isn't afraid to get silly and cartoony when the situation warrants it.
Tsubasa Vols. 3 & 4, by CLAMP; XXXholic Vols. 3 & 4, by Clamp: I feel tremendously guilty for waiting so long to get around to writing about these, and now that I have time, it's been so long since I read them I'm at a loss as to what to say. I enjoyed the fourth volume of Tsubasa a little more than the third, as the larger storyline moves along a little more, and the vaguely European setting of the central story has more appeal to me than the trip to the alternate version of CLAMP's Chun Yan. Both volumes of XXXholic, of course, were filled with beautiful artwork and EC-style horror story twists.
Also I waited too long to review: Descendants of Darkness Vol. 2 by Yoko Matsushita--more pretty boys investigating supernatural mysteries, and Imadoki Vol. 3 by Yuu Watase--I don't know what else to say other than that it's really, really good.
My comments here are probably going to be fairly balanced between my views as a reader and my views from retailing, so bear with me.
Usagi Yojimbo: After all this time, still a steady seller in both monthly and book format. In fact, with the rise in popularity of the book-format manga, the books of this series probably are doing a little better now.
Berserk: Seems to have a strong cult following, but not much else.
Blade of the Immortal: This has largely shed it's audience, and I don't know why. It's also the last manga title whose fans seem to prefer the monthly comic format over the book format.
Oh my Goddess: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Sales on this have slowed to the point as to be non-existant. I never really saw the appeal, as the book always struck me as a watered down riff on Urusei Yatsura, but there was a time that it seemed like everyone was reading this series.
Super Manga Blast: The only thing in here that really works for me is What's Michael. Otherwise, sales have slowed to a trickle, and if sales on book collections from the sereis here are any indication, What's Michael is the only thing in here that people are enjoying.
Appleseed Movie Book: My gut feeling is that it's probably been too long since the last Appleseed project was released for this to do well, and it appears to be a fumetti style book, so we'll probably keep orders low.
The Devil Does Exist: I don't recall the first issue shipping, so I have no idea how it'll do. The plot strongly resembles about a dozen other shojo titles that do sell well for us, so it'll probably do okay.
Monster Collection: I flipped through the first volume and was very unimpressed. So far, so have our customers. We'll probably get a copy of this and leave it at that.
Sword of the Dark Ones: I flipped through the first volume of this and thought it had sales potential, but wasn't for me. I'll probably keep a close eye on sales for the first volume, and if it does well, match them for the second.
Seimaden: The story sounds very similar to Bride of Deimos, which was a strong seller for us, so I expect this will do okay as well.
As a retailer, I really hate the "solicitisement" type pages in Previews. They're hard to read, and it's very difficult to differentiate between new material, reoffered material, and non-comics material. I know it's an attempt to look more like a "front of the book" publisher, but in this section of Previews, clear, easy-to-read layouts are essential, and ADV isn't providing those. Anyway...
Yotsuba&!: Azumanga Daioh had a dedicated following at our store, so we'll probably match that, plus a couple extra copies since genuinely all ages manga is something I'd like to build our stock on.
By the Sword: I really enjoyed Fake, and was really turned off by the premise of Under the Full Moon. This series looked like it had potential, but I think the tiny demon father of the romantic interest killed it for me.
Chrono Crusade: It looked like a fan-service book to me, and our fan-service buyers have been picking it up.
Gunslinger Girl: This is just eccentric enough to have developed a small audience at our store.
Cromartie High School: So far, this has been a hard sell to our customers. I think it's too weird for them. It's on the list of titles I want to check out once I make a little more head-way into the unread manga pile, as I like absurdist comedy.
Kids Joker: I don't think the first volume did well for us, and the premise and art felt generic to me.
Noodle Fighter Miki: Great title. Generic execution.
Orphen: Has the first volume of this even shipped yet. If so, it made no impression on me at all.
Full Metal Panic: Overload: Another title that seems to do well with our fan-service customers.
Anime Works Publications
If the first volume of these three series have even shipped yet, that they made no impact on me at all, either good or bad, is probably not a promising sign.
I don't care for anything they put out. With the exception of Fred Perry's and Rod Espinosa's stuff, we can't move it. Now that real manga is readily available, there seems to be a lot less demand for the facsimile stuff Antarctic puts out.
Galaxy Angel Party: I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but this title sells to our fan-service customers.
It appears to be all resolicited material this month. Since we're on top of reorders anyway, anything we needed back in stock has already been taken care of.
Negima: This opened as a strong seller for us, and it continues to pick up new readers. Surprisingly, given the creator's previous work, most of the customers on this have been young girls.
Othello: It's gotten good reviews, but it hasn't clicked for me. It's selling respectfully.
A Perfect Day for Love Letters: Without knowing a little more about it, it's hard to say how this will do. We'll probably go with slightly conservative orders on this, as we have with most of the Del Rey books, and see how it goes from there.
Wallflower: I'm enjoying this series, especially after the dramatic turn in tone that the second volume took, incorporating supernatural and mystery elements into the story. But, as with most Del Rey books, we'll probably go with conservative orders on this.
Digital Manga Publishing
Antique Bakery: I've seen a couple chapters of this at fan-translation sites and really enjoyed them, so I've been looking forward to this. It may be not quite "yaoi"-like enough to appeal to our yaoi-customers (mostly teenage girls and a few older women...and, well, sometimes me), but it does look like it could strongly appeal to a general gay audience as well, or at least moreso than most yaoi does. Unfortunately, though we do have a good number of gay customers, I've noticed, most of them are pretty firmly super-hero only buyers, so we'll probably go with conservative orders on this as well.
Yellow: This looks promising too. The boys are a little pretty, but not overly much, and they appear to be well over age eighteenj, so it should appeal to our regular yaoi buyers, and I won't feel vaguely creepy after reading it.
Bambi and Her Pink Gun: Oh, I can already tell our manga customers are going to hate this. But our indy comics fans will probably dig it, and I have a suspicion that if I shelve it next to our Couriers display it'll move.
This used to be Comics.One, right?
Dark Edge: This has been a hard sell so far.
Tsukihime: The cover promises a romance story, the description promises a violent story. So one or the other is misleading. So we'll probably go with very conservative orders on this.
High School Girls: Fan-service customers. Did you have to ask?
Rahxephon Novel: I don't think we've managed to sell a single manga-novel, and it hasn't been for lack of trying. I'm guessing we'll probably skip this alltogether.
Iron Wok Jan: A very strong seller for us, a title we keep upping orders on and still sell out of, and a title that has gotten a lot of non-manga readers to pick it up.
King of Fighters: If I shelve this with the manga titles, it won't move. If I shelve it next to the Transformers trade-paperbacks, it'll fly out of here.
Sex Warrior Isane XXX: It's one of our lesser-selling Mangerotica titles, but it still sells.
Oh, and a new issue of Sticky is solicited.
Two titles of naughty pin-up style art books. The expensive covers probably won't move, but the regular ones probably will. This makes me vaguely annoyed, that I even have to consider trying to figure out how many copies of these books to order. On stuff like this, that I have absolutely no interest in at all, it's really hard for me to accurately predict how our customers will like it.
To be honest, I don't recall ever having the first fourteen volumes of this come in. Which is surprsing, as the solicitation promises bondage and, well, bondage porn sells well for us.
A new issue of Dangerous, with a new number one as well. Our yaoi customers seem to be unaware of this title, and I don't feel like I really should pitch it to them. "Hey, I can't help but notice you like reading soft-core porn about androgynous, under-age Japanese boys? Would you be interested in some hard-core porn about androgynous men?"
.hack//Ai Buster: Manga novels don't sell for us.
Princess Ai: We did sell the first volume, to goth types, long after it was released. So, we'll probably order about the same as this volume and plan on it "eventually" selling as well.
MBQ: I know we're all supposed to be excited about "urban", "hip-hop" manga, but it's a genre that does nothing for me, nor does it seem to do anything for our customers. So, Very conservative orders on this.
Saiyuki: After a strong initial sales pattern, slaes have slumped a bit. It still does okay, but we no longer need to keep re-ordering new volumes when they ship. I tried the first volume and wasn't impressed.
Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad: Music themed manga hasn't done very well for us. I think only Sensual Phrase has built an audience at our store. So very conservative orders I'm going to guess.
Chrono Code: Wow, this sounds like about a dozen other titles that also only have marginal sales.
Heat Guy J: Wasn't the anime version of this series a big deal several years ago? This may be too little too late, so we'll probably err on the slightly conservative side and watch sales closely.
Sakura Taisen: Girls in traditional Japanese dress piloting giant robots. I know it's supposed to be a popular series in Japan, but I'm not sure how aware of it most American manga and anime fans are. So, I'm going to go with slightly conservative orders now.
Battle Royale: With volume twelve, we finally seem to have gotten our order numbers right, only to see sales on early volumes pick up again, so we probably should bump orders on this up by a copy or two.
Blade of Heaven: So far it's been a slow seller.
Boys Be...: This series has yet to make an impact on me. Too much fan-service for my taste, but it's been a decent seller for us, and has more customers than just the fan-service crowd.
Crazy Love Story: Has had slow sales.
DearS: Another series that has had no impact on me either as a retailer or reader, which is probably not a good indication for its sales.
Doll: Sales on this series have dramatically increased just lately, so we may up orders slightly on this volume.
Fruits Basket: I really enjoy this series and we still routinely sell out the day new volumes are released, despite increasing orders all the time and reordering prior volumes all the time.
GetBackers: Up to ten volumes? Really? It's made no impact here at all.
Gravitation: Has not been a strong sales performer. It has a couple of dedicated fans, but that's about it.
Gundam Seed Astray: I honestly can't keep track of all the various Gundam titles, much less which publisher is releasing which series. I think we just order one copy of each Gundam title and reorder it if it sells.
Hyper Rune: Despite the CLAMP connection I haven't been interested in this series. It sounds too similar to books I already buy. Sales-wise it's done okay for us. Nothing exciting, just okay.
iD_eNTITY: The "cuteness" of the name has already made me annoyed with this book, and I don't even think I've seen a volume one yet. It doesn't sound like anything remarkable.
Immortal Rain: Has had respecable sales, but not much else.
In Dream World: Wow...another title that sounds like about another dozen titles that also don't sell very well.
Kare Kano: Has had good sales, slumped a bit, but seems to have recovered as interest in early volumes has picked up. We'll probably keep orders steady, though, as I suspect it's losing readers at the same rate it's picking up new ones.
Kindaichi Case Files: I think this is a resolicited volume. I enjoy the series a great deal, but in our area I'm the only one who is. There appears to be no demand at all for manga-style mysteries, which is odd, because Case Closed actually sells okay. Maybe if the Kindaichi anime series was brought to the US sales would go up.
King of Hell: It always surprises me, because I utterly fail to see the appeal of this book, but it's a strong seller for us. Teen boys seem to like it a lot.
One: I think sales have been just okay on this.
Peach Girl: I'm noticing increased interest in early volumes of this title, so reissues are probably a good thing at about this point.
PhD: Phantasy Degree: Hasn't made much of a sales impression yet.
Plant Blood: Also has yet to make any kind of sales impression yet.
Qwan: It didn't grab me, but it's too early to say how sales have been.
Remote: I'm kind of surprised I missed the early volumes of this, as it sounds like it might be something I'd enjoy. Sales have been decent, and I think we've had to reorder early volumes.
RG Veda: I bought the first volume but haven't read it yet. CLAMP sales at our store tend to go in waves. One or two series will do really well while the others languish, then when everyone gets caught up a new series will do well. Right now X and Chobits are the strong sellers.
Samurai Deeper Kyo: Has managed to build a small, dedicated audience.
Sgt. Frog: The first volume didn't do much for me, and despite strong early sales, it's slowed down a lot for us.
Sorcerer Hunters: The original release didn't do so well for us, so I think we've been very conservative on the re-release.
Soul to Seoul: The first two volumes haven't sold, to be honest. This may be skipped.
Visitor: I think volume one just shipped to us. It sounds like it might have potential, but I havne't looked at it more than to make sure that, yep, it was indeed sent to us.
Shonen Jump: Still does fine for us, but sales are down a lot from the early release. I don't know if it's the cheapness of the subscription or it's easy availibilty at other locations, but people don't make a point of buying it from us.
Shojo Beat: In light of that, I'm guessing we may go slightly conservative on this series. I'll buy the first couple of volumes, but only in order to determine which titles I'll want to buy in book format. Absolute Boyfriend is by Yu Watase, so I'm so there, and Godchild is by Kaori Yuki and it's occult mysteries in Victorian London, so I'm there again. I have no interes in samurai dramas or sports stories, so both Kaze Hikaru and Crimson Hero will have to be exceptional to hold my interest. Nana has potential, but I very quickly lost interest in Paradise Kiss, the creators prior work. Baby and Me could be good as well, but I want to read a couple volumes before I commit to it. I'll get to the various Shojo Beat titles as they come up, but I do sort of wonder what happened to Cain Saga. It's listed in the ad for June shipping books, but doesn't appear to be in the solicitations at all.
Dr. Slump: Without knowing how the first volume will do, it's hard to guess. My gut is that Dragonball fans are Dragonball fans, not Akira Toriyama fans, so I'm sceptical of the sales potential.
Knights of the Zodiac: Has not been a good seller. At all. We may drop the title.
One Piece: It's got a strong cult following, but that's about it.
Prince of Tennis: We can't give sports manga away. At eight volumes, it may be time to stop trying.
Rurouni Kenshin: Sales have dropped a bit, after very strong early sales. Older volumes aren't moving and newer volumes are sitting on the shelf. We need to cut a copy or two from our order.
Whistle: Again, sports manga aren't feeling the love from our customers.
Yu Gi Oh Duelist: This title has a weird sales pattern. It'll sit on the shelf, and then someone will buy several volumes at once. So we concentrate on keeping reorders coming in and don't sweat the new volumes too much.
Hunter X Hunter: Is this shipping monthly? I don't recall ever getting any copies in.
Ultimate Muscle: Will not sell. Probably time to drop it.
All New Tenchi Muyo: Used to be a very strong seller, but now it just sort of sits on the shelf. This seems to be the fate of most manga titles that hit it big in the last decade. Even Ranma 1/2 has had a big sales drop.
Bastard: It's developed a small cult following as well, and we seem to order exactly as many as we need and never get asked for the volumes we sell out of.
Case Closed: It's been doing okay sales wise, and may actually be picking up.
Cheeky Angel: It hasn't made much of an impact on me, though it gets good reviews. Sales are decent.
Fullmetal Alchemist: We're probably going to be quite bold on ordering this. Demand is high and it's got a high profile, and I think it has strong cross-over sales potential.
Inu-Yasha: Probably our best-selling manga title. We always sell out, despite upping orders, and we constantly need to get older volumes back in stock.
Mar: I don't think the first volume has shipped yet. It sounds very generic, so we can brave conservative orders.
Project Arms: I think we have a customer for this.
Video Girl Ai: I'm always vaguely surprised that this is still coming out. The fan-service crowed seems to like it.
Saikano: It's gotten good reviews, but it hasn't impressed me at all. Sales have been just okay.
Sexy Voice and Robo: At $20, this is going to be a hard sell. We'll probably do very conservative orders.
Tough: Hasn't really had much of a sales impact yet, and I'm not sure why, as action/fightig manga tends to do okay for us.
Art of Howl's Moving Castle: We haven't had much luck with manga art-books in the past, and at $35 I don't expect that trend to reverse with this volume.
Full Moon O Sagashite: This just sounds like a terrible collection of shojo cliches. It doesn't appeal to me at all, but it's hard to predict what our customers will think about books like this. Given the music angle, and given that those tend to be hard sells for us, we'll probably go with very conservative orders.
Tokyo Boys and Girls: It doesn't really sound like my thing, but similar books have sold well for us, so we'll probably be pretty confident with orders on this as well.
Descendants of Darkness: I like this series a lot, but we've only had okay sales on it.
Doubt: Hasn't made any impact on me as either a reader or retailer, which is never a good sign.
From Far Away: This could be good, and its sales have been okay, but it sounds too much like Fushigi Yugi, and I already get that series. I don't need two books about girls whisked away to a fantasy world where it turns out they're the prophesied one and hot guys compete to protect her.
Fushigi Yugi: It's Yu Watase, I really like it, and sales on it are good.
Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden: It sounds more like a remake than a sequel to Fushigi Yugi, but I will be getting it, and we'll probably match orders to FY.
Here is Greenwood: Sales have been really slow and we can probably afford to drop a copy from our regular order.
Hot Gimmick: It hasn't done anything for me, but sales have actually been okay, and it gets good word of mouth.
I's: Hard to say, especially without knowing what the first volume will do. We'll probably go with a conservative order.
Ouran High School Host Club: Another title that just sounds awful to me. Hard to say how it'll do, we'll probably err on the side of a conservative order and watch sales closely.
Please Save My Earth: Has had very slow sales, but has a dedicated audience.
Red River: Hasn't been a very good seller, but it does sell. I think we may have a customer for it, so we can probably get away with just one copy.
Ultra Maniac: The description doesn't do anything for me, but it sounds like the sort of thing that may do well for us, so we may go with an optimistic order.
W Juliet: The premise held no interest for me, but it's done okay sales, so we'll probably maintain our current sales level.
(My apologies for any stupid or careless spelling mistakes or typo...blogger seems to be acting up this morning and I'm sick of dealing with it)
You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
Hmmm...this is a tricky one. I'd probably go with the poems of Robert Browning. I'm not generally a poetry type of guy. So much of it is either tedious or self-important that I never really learned to enjoy it. Browning is one of the handful that I genuinely enjoy without reservation, including Yeats, Gunn, Owen and Eliot. Eliot is a special case, however, as I largely feel like he's to blame for the utter pretentious mess that modern poetry has become. Yes, it was very clever of Eliot to avoid obvious rhyme and metre, and to write about in-jokes only his poet buddies would understand, but now that every single self-professed poet does the same damn thing, the joke has gotten old.
Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
The last book you bought is:
Okay, the last books I bought were several books of vintage gay paper-back erotica/porn in Palm Springs. Specifically Other Than a Man, Mountain Man, Faculty Relations and Gay Glory Boys. The last books I bought that I actually intend to read are Robert Rankin's The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, because I really like the idea of an absurdist mystery in Toy Town, and Val McDermid's The Distant Echo, as I've read several of her previous mysteries and they usually make for dependable and eccentric tales.
What are you currently reading?
Nothing, actually. I just finished Tamara Siler Jones' Ghosts in the Snow, a well-meaning attempt to write a forensic detective mystery in a medieval-like fantasy world. Yes, with magic and ghosts and people who can turn invisible and magic swords and all that. It wasn't bad, per se. The writing is much better than in most commercial fantasy novels. But the notion of applying logic and rationality to a fantastic setting, specifically within the context of a mystery, just never quite gelled. Plus there was a strong over-reliance on red herrings and little to no evidence indicating the real killer presented to the reader prior to the revelation of the killer.
I'm probably going to next start in on reading the Robert Rankin book, and maybe keep Richard Meyer's Outlaw Representation, a history of the censorship of gay art in the last century, close to hand as well, as I'm trying to get back into the habit of reading non-fiction.
Plus, I've got three weeks worth of comics and many volumes of manga waiting to be read as well.
Five books you would take to a deserted island.
I'm going to cheat on this one, a bit, because I want to bring something by "the best English language writer of all time" and which of three writers I happen to think that is depends largely on the kind of mood you catch me in when you ask.
Donald Barthelme's postmodern fairy tale Snow White, as it is my favorite novel of all time.
R.W. Chambers' The Yellow Sign, probably my favorite collection of horror stories, and ones that fill me with more existential dread than just about any work in the genre other than House of Leaves (which I probably should go and re-read).
Terry Pratchett's Small Gods, my favorite humorist, and my favorite work of his. Probably also his work which will have the longest shelf-life, as the issues it touches upon are probably the widest reaching, and of all the Discworld novels it's probably the most accessible to a new reader.
Oh, and let's say Michel Foucault's Discipline and Punish, not only so that I'll be able to develop an analytical frame-work from which to examine each of the other texts I'll be bringing with me, but since postmodernism is always at least partly a pose, I'll need it as a prop to maintain my pomo cred.
And the representatives for best English language writer are:
James Joyce's Ulysses, as it is the only work of his that I haven't actually read.
Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, which is probably the closest American fiction has ever come to matching the talent of Joyce, not to mention his use of language.
And the works of William Shakespeare, particularly the comedies. Not that I feel that they are superior to the tragedies or the histories, it's just that I prefer them to the tragedies and the histories.
Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?
Well, the people I passed the music meme off to are safe for now, as it feels unfair to toss things like this at them twice in a row.
Rick, mostly because I missed out on passing the buck to him on the music meme.
Ken, mostly just to try to get him to post more frequently, and maybe he will if I give him an excuse.
And Lyle, because I want to know what other gay City of Heroes players are reading.
"I don't know how this could have happened! I set him down right over there, turned my back, and a week later he was gone!"
And I'm trying not to be too amused by this, because clearly some child is very concerned about his missing pet, but really...it's not as if turtles are known for their craftiness or their eagerness to escape captivity.
Today was much more restful than yesterday. Partly it was helped that between the two of us, Mike and I both brought in CDs of "the music in our heads." So we listened to a lot of Sigur Ros, Broken Social Scene, The Capricorns and, of course, disco mix discs.
There were, of course, many an interesting customer. Most of them fell squarely into the category of "Customers Who Amuse Dorian Without Even Trying:"
Like the nice, enthusiastic lady who wore her home-made super-hero costume into the shop.
Or the man who wouldn't let his daughter buy the most recent issue of Wonder Woman because "modern comics are too adult for kids," but bought her a reprint of a Golden Age Wonder Woman comic. Specifically, the one in which evil female aliens team up with all of Wonder Woman's female enemies to tie up the Amazons. A lot. Yeah, that's much more kid friendly than Professor Zoom and the Cheetah flirting.
Or the customer who insists on letting me know all about his personal fantasy life via his porn purchases. Today he bought tranny incest porn. At least he has the manners not to loudly shout his porn requests when the store is full of kids, as at least one enthusiastic Housewives at Play fan tends to do.
Or the fellow who, ever since the first volume of Scott Pilgrim was released, has come into the shop every week and asked if we've gotten Vol. 2 in yet. I'm glad he liked the book and all, but every time I try to tell him that it hasn't even had a publication date announced yet he looks at me as if I'm deliberately trying to keep it away from him.
My favorite, though, had to be the trio of people early in the morning he felt compelled to not only touch everything in the store but to loudly comment on it as well. Dude, when you're only in the store because you're waiting for the game store to open so that you can play in the Yu Gi Oh tournament, you sort of give up the right to suggest that Musashi #9 or Sin City are "weird" or "geeky."
Probably the best, short summation of the newspaper and on-line strip collected in this book is that it's a dramatic comedy about five men who live in a gay bed and breakfast in New England. Greg Fox, whose work some of you may know from many of the Rock N Roll Comics books or Doctor Chaos (come on, admit it, I know some of you must), writes and draws this frequently hilarious, occasionally touching strip. His characters are all distinct in personality and recognizable gay fiction "types." You've got your "average" gay man, your troubled gay teen, your party queen, your Log-Cabin-ish "power" gay and your straight-acting closeted gay, all living under the same roof. And, in a nice bit of fan service, Fox has always been very careful to make sure that each of the characters is quite attractive and that several of them spend quite a bit of time in various states of undress, while keeping all the total and partial nudity well within the tasteful side of things.
The book collects the first five years worth of strips, from 1998 to 2003. The storylines are very much in the tradition of dramatic newspaper strips. New characters and plotlines are introduced on a regular basis and played out, with each of the characters reacting in a naturalistic and character-based way. They never feel out of character in their responses. A long, ongoing storyline in the strip has been the coming our, or not, of closeted minor-league baseball player Brad, apparently a fan favorite character in the strip. He's never really a character I warmed to, chiefly because of my lack of sympathy for the closeted aspect of the character. I've always preferred the more down to earth character's in the strip, such as landlord and gay everyman Kyle, or Nick, the beer-gutted, ultra-macho gay mechanic, or even Kyle's newest romantic interest, Breyer.
Again, the art on the strip is excellent, and the writing is well done as well. I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone looking to check out the growing "non adult" gay comics scene (outside of yaoi), or anyone looking for a good, character based dramatic comic.
On the other end of the mainstream gay comics scale, we have Tom Bouden's take on growing up gay in Belgium. Max is a teenage boy coming to terms with his sexuality when he meets and becomes friends with Sven, with whom he quickly falls in love. Sven is smart, funny with a quick, caustic wit, and incredibly handsome. Trouble is, Sven is straight. Most of the book follows Max in his efforts to not only figure out what, precisely it means to be gay, with many an anecdote that sounds uncomfortably familiar to any gay man reading the book (such as buying both gay and straight books at the bookstore so that the clerk won't think you're gay), but the mood of adolescent confusion and unrequited longing is universal enough that the book will feel familiar to anyone who fell in love at a young age with an unobtainable object.
For lack of a better word, the book has a very "European" feel to both the art and the story. Art-wise, Bouden reminds me both a little bit of Herge and a little bit of Lewis Trondheim. He has a deceptively simple, "cartoony" line to his work. The work also has a frankly sexual nature to much of it, without ever crossing over into anything that would make it feel like an "adult" comic. Honestly, it's a casual, honest way of dealing with sex, sexuality and nudity that just doesn't seem possible to appear in an American comic. Likewise with the whole process of Max's coming out. Apart from the crush on Sven, it's remarkably trauma free and casual, whereas an American coming out story would have been far more dramatic, given how schizophrenic American attitudes are towards any kind of sexuality.
I can't unreservedly recommend this book. I enjoyed it very much, and I expect most others will too, but the story is not particularly focused and tends to wander quite a bit. Also, some aspects of the translation into English seem a bit shaky. There are several moments when the language feels like it has been "Americanized" and it is distracting, as it doesn't at all feel like something the characters would have actually said.
I'm also deliberately including Amazon links for both books as, to the best of my knowledge, neither title has ever been offered by Diamond.
I was reminded of this at work today: Quesada said Marvel is launching a significant number of new characters as compared to a few years ago. The E-I-C said that since the speculator bust its been hard to launch any new characters, explaining why icons like Spider-Man and Wolverine appeared so frequently in other books. According to Quesada it was the only way for new books to survive.
But Quesada said new Marvel launches are starting to work again, because there has been a market shift and/or theyre getting good at it again, and either way it's a good thing that new launches are seeing more success.
My first thought was: So...Marvel pushing new characters on comics buyers has nothing to do with them having already sold the film, television, toy and video game rights to every existing character they own? My second thought was: how are female versions of Spider-Man and Wolverine, and teen versions of the Avengers "new" characters?
Of Marvel's recent "new" character launches, Livewires is selling respectably, but it's selling to Adam Warren fans. After two days I don't think we've sold a single copy of Spellbinders. In fact, the only "new" character title to launch from Marvel in recent years to sell well has been Runaways, which is being picked up largely by people who started out reading some other title written by Brian Vaughn.
Yes, there was no post this morning because I still wasn't feeling well, and was still feeling grumpy. My mood was not improved by having to deal with many people at work today who needed to be introduced to the concept of soap. Or by having to deal with "mint-hounds" (you know, people who pore over every single book looking for even the slightest flaw or imperfections) badgering me for "bronze age" back issues. And now I have to look forward to people looking for "copper age" and soon, I'm sure, "brass age" comics.
So, in sixties Marvel comics, who was the first female character to have a career that wasn't secretary, nurse or model?
Seriously...they thought Countdown to Infinite Crisis was a better title than DC Countdown? And now all the sites that have previews for this book and the semi-spin-offs up seem to have bandwidth consumption related access problems. Which indicates to me that there's a lot of general interest in these titles, despite some of the nay-saying I've noticed on-line.
Inventory Control Demo is still selling strong, and we have to re-order weekly again. It's starting to approach Johnen Vasquez sales levels in our neck of the woods. The Apparat books from Warren Ellis are also moving, but still slowly. What helps there is that no one ever buys just one. And with the exception of Metal Gear Solid, IDW is slowly but surely losing sales momentum, except for Grimjack, which we now cannot keep in stock. After a long dry spell, G.I. Joe is starting to pick up in sales, as are Street Fighter and Darkstalkers, but the super-hero universe Aftermath titles from Devil's Due are just sitting on the shelf. Across the board sales on Ultimate titles are falling. Customers who have dropped the books cite either the long, meandering plotlines as the cause of their dissatisfaction, or the "lack of fun" in the titles. In general, sales are up in the store, but sales on individual titles are down. My guess is that people are broadening their purchases and dropping marginal titles.
True Tales of Comics Retail
A customer came into the store, looking for Sin City comics, and Kid Chris and I are only too helpful in locating for them. He flips through them, gets this sort of annoyed look on his face and asks me "Do you have any other comics that are kind of like this?"
"Like that, how?" I ask. "Noir crime stories or in a similar art style?" (I must always ask this question. I've been asked for "dark" comics too many times.)
"Like this art. I want something that has very noir art."
I wonder, briefly, if he's just repeating my words back to me and has mistaken a genre description for an art term, and suggest artists like Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, Mike Mignola and Tim Sale, who have all done work in the high-contrast black-and-white technique that Miller uses on Sin City. He then notices a Brian Bolland poster of the Joker up on the wall. "There, that's the sort of thing I'm looking for! That kind of noir art."
I'm looking at the picture, and before I can edit myself I say "Brian Bolland's work is closer to a photo-realistic style. It doesn't look anything like Frank Miller's work."
"Oh, so the style that Frank Miller uses is called photo-realism?"
So, yeah, it's now becoming clear to me that this person is only repeating words back at me, has no idea what I'm talking about, and in all likelihood is only looking for something to trace. Because he's an artist. And he's taken a look at Sin City and decided that it's going to be too hard to copy. Plus, we close in about fifteen minutes and I don't have time to give this guy an art history lesson so that we'll at least be using the same basic terminology so that I can help him find whatever the hell he thinks he's looking for. "No, Brian Bolland, who drew that picture of the Joker, uses a technique similar to photo-realism. Frank Miller, who drew Sin City uses a high-contrast, white on black style to tell crime stories. Forget the word noir."
"Oh. So I want something like Sin City then?"
"If that's the art style you're looking for, yes." And he then buys two random issues of two different Sin City mini-series.
I swear, my job would be so much easier if people would just admit that they're looking for something to trace.
There really isn't too much of note here. Of the titles I do read, only Catwoman and Gotham Central have changes in creators, with Catwoman getting both Will Pfeiffer and Pete Woods added to the book, and Kano coming along as the new penciler for Gotham Central--which is revisiting a "death of Robin" storyline. The few other titles that either Pete or I read simply have new issues come out that advance existing storylines. None of the new titles announced this month sound particularly interesting to me.
Okay, I'll admit that Batzarro has a nice ring to it.
Day of Vengeance #3 features Detective Chimp.
DC Special is a nicely nostalgic name for the Return of Donna Troy mini-series. And it's got an impeccable line up of talent on it as well. If I can dive into fan-boy mode for a moment, it's becoming pretty clear that the new "meta-continuity" for the DC Universe started with the death of Donna Troy about two years ago, which is one of the reasons I look askance at gripes that this emphasis on tighter cross-title connections at DC is something they've cooked up to ride the coat-tails of Identity Crisis. Which, I think, sort of deflates the complaint that the interlinking of titles has been heavy-handed, since it's been going on for two years now without comment.
Now, that being said, I will say that doing an Identity Crisis semi-sequel in the pages of JLA, so soon after DC Countdown and the start of OMAC Project is pushing it a little.
Day of Vengeance #3 features Detective Chimp!
Klarion, Zatanna and Shining Knight all have gorgeous covers this month, and the solicitations for these issues reveal some of the ways the titles will intersect, other than sharing the same villains.
Darwyn Cooke is the featured artist in this month's issue of Solo. How did I know that a Slam Bradley story would be in the book?
The Teen Titans/Outsiders cross-over continues, continuing the new emphasis on cross-title continuity, with ties to both Villains United and The Return of Donna Troy. Good thing I'm a shameless DC fanboy, or I might start to see some merits to the complaint that DC is taking this a tad too far.
Son of Vulcan is a revamp I never saw coming.
I like the cover for the second issue of Villains United. There's no good reason for me to like it, I just do. It has a sense of fun to it.
Day of Vengeance #3 features Detective Chimp!
Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck digests. Neat.
Nothing of here immediately grabs me, other than that I'd like to point out that Monster Collection caught me off guard with how racy it is. So if DC is comfortable putting that out uncensored, I shudder to think just how bad Tenjo Tenge really was.
Having a new edition of Ballad of Halo Jones is very good for me, because now I can keep selling it to people looking for more Alan Moore books.
Huh. Nothing grabs me. That's unusual for Humanoids.
I know nothing about any of the characters in Albion, but I don't care, I'm just curious to see if it's as insane and strange as I hope. Very nice cover as well.
Astro City: The Dark Age is solicited again. I'm still looking forward to it.
Did the world really need another Lobo/Authority special? I'm guessing no.
Of the titles I already read, the only noteworthy event is the vague hint that possibly the identity of the Adversary will be revealed in Fables.
The comics adaptation of Neverwhere begins, and Neil Gaiman's name appears only in the title. Now, given that Mike Carey is writing, and Glenn Fabry drawing, I have every confidence that it will be quite good. I just feel that it's worth pointing out that Gaiman's name only appears in the title.
The cover for the WE3 collection is gorgeous. At $13 it is more expensive than the original issues, so I hope there's some added value in the trade. I will be buying it anyway, as I liked the book enough I want to make sure I have it in a durable format for the future. Heck, I'm half-tempted to buy two copies of the book and run some sort of contest to give the other away.
The Krypto Maquettes look nice, but everything else is either too expensive, too ugly, or both.
Is there any sort of logical consistency to how Marvel categorizes their books? I still don't think I've heard a good explanation as to why, say, X-23 is a Marvel Next book and not an X-Men family book, or why Spider-Man titles seem to sometimes be listed in three different places.
I'm sorry, but House of M still sounds like the title of a Parker Posey picture to me. I just don't think "big, company wide, reality-shaking crossover" when I hear the name. Oh, and we have a Spider-Man spin-off as a result of it. To run concurrently with the spin-offs from New Avengers. And wasn't Tom Breevort on some panel somewhere bragging about how, yes, actually, you will need to buy every cross-over issue and special in order to understand this series?
X-Men: Kitty Pryde--Shadow and Flame: Oh lord, another "Kitty is a ninja" story.
Last Hero Standing sounds like Tom DeFalco is rewriting Contest of Champions.
Wow five issues into Young Avengers and they're already using the death of a character as a selling point. That's a remarkably disappointing and cliched way to try to get me to rapidly lose interest in a title that I actually thought had some potential, despite the fact that it had to deal with the fallout of about a dozen ill-conceived ideas from that whole Avengers: Disassembled mess.
I was going to say that there isn't a single X-Men comic that even looked remotely good, but then I noticed that Matt Fraction and Sam Kieth are writing a story in which Wolverine dies a lot. Now that's comedy!
I'd like to say more about the Marvel solicitations, but they just depress me.
One interesting bit of news they did decide to drop was that a new Jonah Hex series, with a Frank Quitely cover for the first issue, would be coming out later this year, written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. Each issue, they promise, will be a self-contained story.
This is good news. Because DC likes to cross-market, and if this comes out, expect some Jonah Hex trades (oh please, not an Archive) to come out as well. Jonah Hex is one of those DC properties that I've always felt that DC needs to market outside of comic shops. There's still an audience for Westerns, and the most requested genre by non-comics readers who come into the store are Westerns, followed closely by war comics. I could make a lot of money selling inexpensive Jonah Hex trades to people, and I suspect they'd do well in bookstores too, especially if they make sure the trade dress doesn't make it look like a comic-book.
Speaking of trade dress, I'm the only one who doesn't like the new designs for the Sin City trades. I like the new size, especially since they're about the same size as bookstore trade editions, but the new logo is dull and boring and does nothing to make the book stand out. Likewise, the art they've chosen for the covers doesn't sell the book at all. I'd rather have Miller's original cover design on them than a random piece of art from the book blown-up. And the back-cover gimmick of replicating a couple of interior panels does nothing to tell me about the book's content. I get what they were going for. They were trying to duplicate the look of a "Black Lizard" or "Vintage" noir/mystery novel design, and I admire the effort, but they've created ugly little artifacts instead.
The Book of Lost Souls: I'm having very mixed feelings towards this announcement. On the one hand, Colleen Doran is an artist whose work I've greatly enjoyed in the past. Her name on a project is usually enough to get me to check it out. On the other hand, J. Michael Straczynski's writing I generally find wildly uneven. I never had any interest in either Babylon 5 or Rising Stars. Midnight Nation looked as if it might be good, but I've never found myself curious enough about it to buy the collected edition. Amazing Spider-Man repels me, and Strange is simply dull. Supreme Power is either very good, or very bad, but never of consistent quality from issue to issue. And as for the publisher, I'm generally not happy with the editorial tone or direction of Marvel Comics lately. So, I'm left leaning towards passing on the book, sight unseen, merely because my appreciation of Doran's work is not greater than my skepticism regarding the quality of Straczynski's writing and the antics of the book's publisher, and that's a terrible conclusion to have to come to.
Victoria's Secret Service: This will be a good way to test how quickly corporate lawyers can react to copy-right infringements.
Just as DC recently did away with the $2.95 price point, Marvel has eliminated their $2.25 price point. Cue complaining from comics fans about the expense of books and people desperately trying to work out the "value per page" of their comics.
Joss Whedon to write and direct Wonder Woman movie: Now, if I were a cynical man, I might point out that Buffy only ever had a vocal cult audience and was not the cultural touchstone that many of its fans seem to think it was and that Firefly couldn't draw flies, much less an audience, and so this news should perhaps be viewed with some restraint and skepticism. Were I a cynical man, I might point out that Whedon's writing in the past has been, at best, competent, and that the high praise his work garners is a sign of how low expectations are amongst the audience for the genres he works in. But were I a cynical man, and were I to say those things, other people would act as if I was the person being unreasonable.
Tokyopop declares that they don't censor manga, except, of course, for those several occasions in Initial D and Tokyo Tribes when they have. And that's not even getting into the extensive dialogue changes they've done on a number of titles. Or how Battle Royale's plot was altered to fit in a "reality tv" angle. And it seems to me that there's at least one CLAMP title where a male character is always referred to as "she" so as to avoid any implications of a gay romance. But apart from those times they've never censored anything.
Joe Quesada went to Wizard World and, miraculously, refrained from acting like a complete tool: Two things caught my eye. "Regarding the cover of Wolverine #26: Yes, that obscure figure is Northstar and readers will find out in that issue why hes back and whys hes so pissed."---Hmmm, could it be because he was killed in a cheap stunt to goose sales? Oh, and apparently Wha...Huh? will be published in August. And it will be published "as originally created." The sound you hear is me laughing my ass off at the boundless optimisim of that statement.
Phantom of the Paradise: What does a horribly disfigured song-writer do when his music has been stolen and he's been framed for a crime he didn't commit? Apparently he puts on a fruity costume and hides out in a theater, continuing to write music for the guy who robbed him and occasionally killing untalented nostalgia acts. This Brian De Palma directed feature contains a lot of the filmic styles he would later go on to build something of a reputation on, and it stars Paul Williams, and features a full rock sound-track by Paul Williams of excellent songs. It's no damn good, and you'll probably be laughing as much at it as with it, but it is still a thing of utter beauty.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: I actually think this is a pretty good movie, all things considered. The music is fantastic, the actors are top notch, and it's got an absurd and surreal sense of humor running through it. Of course, to appreciate it on its own merits, you have to be clued in to that sense of humor, and the general American film-audience never seems to have been. So the real fun, now, is the midnight showings of the film with full casts. I used to be involved with my local cast. Those were good times in my mis-spent youth.
The Apple: And this is what happens when a film studio deliberately attempts to replicate the success of Rocky Horror's midnight shows. The plot is, well, we won't get into the plot over-much. There's much made of two virginal singer/songwriters who get seduced by the dark side of the music biz, in a film that heavily mixes right-wing Israeli political sentiment and Adam and Eve allegories into a confused and jumbled mess. The songs aren't even very good, just sort of passably there. But, there's still something about it that compels me to watch every time. I'm not the kind of person who slows down to look at car crashes, but the joy I get out of viewing the sheer terribleness of this film must be something akin to the sensation car crash fans feel. "It's a natural, natural, natural desire/To meet an actual, actual, actual vampire!"
Wet Hot American Summer: It might be cheating to put this film on the list. Here at least the intent was to deliberately create a bad movie. Specifically, a remake/tribute/homage to all those cheap 80s teen sex comedies (a lot of which seem to have been produced by the same people who made The Apple...weird). From most of the people who brought us the late, lamented The State (and damn the music rights issues that are keeping that show from coming out on DVD), this is almost an exact replica of those Porky's and Meatballs knock-offs that my parents for some reason thought it was okay for me to watch. There's a deft blend of replication and satire going on here, and I love the way they subvert the obligatory sex scene paradigm in this. Plus, you've got Chris Meloni proving he can do comedy, David Hyde Pierce uttering Mike's favorite expletive, and Janeane Garofalo before she got kind of shrill and annoying. Oh, and Paul Rudd is kind of pretty to look at, but that my just be me.
Super Troopers: A film that I do actually feel vaguely guilty for enjoying from time to time. But it's a damn funny film. Again, you sort of have to be on the same wave-length of humor to appreciate it. Like Wet Hot American Summer, it blends both homage and satire to a kind of comedy that's no longer around, but unlike that other film it brings something new to it as well. There's an actual narrative plot to this film that makes the humor work, within the film's own twisted logic. The follow-up feature, Club Dread, isn't as strong, but is still worth checking out, and I curse that rights issues are keeping Broken Lizard's first film, Puddle Cruiser out of circulation. The only thing that gives me hope that the upcoming Dukes of Hazzard film won't be a total, unmitigated disaster is that these guys are behind it, and director Jay Chandrasekhar knows how to bring "the funny."
DWNTACBW: Music to Torment Customers and Co-Workers With
The Perennial Favorites
Robbie Williams: Unpretentious and unapologetic pop music will always have its place in culture, and with Robbie that's all you're getting. The lyrics are occasionally cheesy and hopelessly self-referential (I think he's got about a dozen songs about how hard it is to be a self-conscious singer of unapologetic pop songs), and the music is nothing ground-breaking, but that's the appeal of him. It's just pop music for the sake of pop music.
Dolly Parton: A beautiful voice and very nice melodies, and country-flavored music that you can actually listen to and is actually country music, not what currently passes for country music. And with a career as long and as varied as hers, there's bound to be a phase she went through to appeal to just about everyone.
Stephen Lynch: This is more the sort of thing to listen to while we're breaking down shipments in the morning. It's very funny stuff, but oh man, is it ever in poor taste. We have too many "irony-impaired" customers to even attempt to get away with playing songs like "Hermaphrodite" or "Special Ed" or "D&D." Especially "D&D," what with the fact that we carry role-playing games and role-players are renowned for having a sense of humor about themselves. (One of my co-workers on the game side was playing a mix disc that happened to have "D&D" on it...and yes, there were complaints from the gamers about him playing a "gamer hating" song.)
Stereo Total: Ah, French pop...is it not the most glorious incarnation of music ever devised. So familiar, yet so tantalizingly foreign. And this duo takes all the conventions of French pop and runs with them, turning out marvelous danceable songs. I can listen to "Je te partie que le diable est Anglais" and "J'aime l'amour a trois" over and over again.
Phil Ochs: Folk music used to mean something, back before it was just a way to sell albums by semi-talented female guitar players to college students majoring in English. It used to be angry and opinionated and topical. And the best of the justifiably angry folk-singers was Phil, who always had the good sense to lighten the anger with lots of good-natured, ironic humor. Every once in awhile we need to skip a song on a disc because a customer we know is "irony impaired" happens to be in the store, but otherwise I like to leave him on as an antidote to the general conservative politics of most comics fans.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band: No, not the album by the Beatles, the two-disc soundtrack to the film starring the Bee-Gees and a whole host of seventies has-beens and never-weres. It's marvelously tacky and ill-conceived and I love the album for it. It's almost a testament to how bone-headed the entertainment industry was in that decade. And it has Donald Pleasance "singing" on it...what is not to love?
Harry Nillson: Specifically, the sound-track to Skidoo...Mike and I can listen to that all day long.
Sigur Ros: Dreamy lyrics sung over achingly sweet music. It's wonderful music to have in the background, as it just insinuates itself into the surroundings. You almost forget about it until some startlingly beautiful sound comes out of nowhere at you.
The Polyphonic Spree: Happy music with simple, joyful lyrics. It's good and bouncy and makes you feel better.
Scissor Sisters: It's almost a bit early to put them on a favorites list, because they've really only had the one album out so far, but I can listen to it over and over again, and it never gets old. They've got high-energy music with a distinctive sound, and they've taken their inspiration and not only wear it proudly, but they take it into new places. There's a wicked and ribald sense of humor on display in the songs, and an unashamed sex appeal as well.
Ashley MacIssaac: If my one concession to celtic/folk/fiddle music has to be made, it's going to be the kinky gay Canadian fiddler I'm going to listen to. Honestly, I don't know much about the genre, other than that it's usually inoffensive enough and the fans tend to have no sense of self-awareness and wear too many pendants, but I like Ashley's stuff. And, again, that he can be very funny when he wants to be helps a lot.
The Pogues: Okay, so I'll also listen to the drunken Irish punks signing celtic tunes as well. There, are you happy?
80s Music: How do you distill a decade down. I like that synth-pop sound, I like the lyrics that don't take themselves seriously, I like that the bands had the good sense to get one, maybe two albums of decent music out before disappearing. Whether on sound-tracks, or compilations, or mix discs, I can listen to the cheesy music of my youth for hours on end and be perfectly satisfied with the experience. Is it "good" in an objective sense? Only rarely. But that's not the point. It's almost as if the entire culture just decided to go goofy and have fun as a direct result of humorless right-wing governments coming to power all over the place. And it resulted in gloriously fun but dumb music.
To celebrate the day when Caesar should have kept a closer eye on his mates, I'm going to talk about a board-game I really like, Betrayal at House on the Hill. In this game, three to six players take turns exploring a reputedly haunted mansion. Players choose from one of twelve characters to play, each character having a unique figurine and character card displaying what your character's beginning characteristic in the four "traits" of Speed, Might, Sanity and Knowledge, as well as a few basic facts about your character such as hobbies and birthday. Play starts with the character whose birthday is closest to today's date.
Players build the board by placing various room tiles off of the entrance hallway. Doors marked on the room tiles must be placed with existing doorways in order to create as logical a floor-plan as possible. There are four door ways off of the entrance, and two special tiles that are set aside to represent the second floor landing and the basement entrance. Certain room tiles can only be placed on certain floors, so while the exact layout of the house will vary from game to game, there are some rooms you can reliably expect to find on certain floors. In case you need to get to them in an emergency. Most of the rooms require players to do something once they've entered the room. This usually involves drawing an "Event" or "Item" card, but sometimes there are hazards in the rooms. These hazards mean you must attempt to succeed at a trait roll or face a penalty, usually losing a point in a trait or taking some damage. There are a few rooms that actually allow you to increase one of your traits. Items are, unsurprisingly, items you find in the house that could be useful to you. Events are strange happenings relating to the forces that haunt the house that can either hurt or help you, depending on how well you roll on a trait roll.
There is a third card type, and that's where the game gets interesting. The "Omen" cards that certain rooms instruct you to draw are a special mix of items and events that directly relate to the specific evil haunting the house. Each time a player draws an Omen card, after following the instructions on the card, that player must make a haunt roll on the games special dice (they're numbered from 0 to 2). If the player rolls a number that is less than the number of Omen cards that have been drawn by all players since the game began, the "Haunt" begins. The Haunt is the specific terrifying event that the players must contend with that night. A special chart is included in the two Haunt booklets that has you look up which Omen card in which room the Haunt started in to determine not only which Haunt is to be played, but which player is actually a traitor and working against the other players. In most Haunt scenarios the traitor has a certain number of monstrous assistants to aid him or her in the traitor's efforts to destroy the other players.
More than the randomness of the board layout and the specific Haunt, it's the presence of the traitor that makes the game unique each time you play. It's a mechanic that allows the players to not only work together as a co-operative game, but also adds an element of competitive play. The rules of the game and most of the haunts, are stacked against the heroic players, and they have to work together to stop the traitor from completing the conditions that would allow the traitor to win the game. This is why making certain to build the board as logically as possible in the early game is important. You don't want to be a hero and need to get The Ring and The Girl into the Chapel when it's twelve spaces away, you only have a move of three, and there are two mutated cannibals and the traitor between you and your goal.
Now, as much fun as this game is, there is one caveat I must give you if you decide to buy it. You must download the errata. I suggest printing it out and keeping it in the box. Whoever edited the game should not be working as an editor. There are lots of little omissions and a few serious misprints, such as an Underground Lake that, inexplicably, only appears on the upper floor. But more seriously, on many of the Haunt scenarios, important information is left out...such as victory conditions for either the heroes or the traitor, or the stats for some of the monsters. It's very frustrating to know that you need to make a successful Sanity attack against the Demon Lord in order to beat him, and then not know what the Demon Lord's Sanity stat is. But if you get the errata, there are no problems to the game, and Pete and I have had hours of enjoyment playing this game with our friends.
The rating system I generally use works as follows: Films I'd Pay Full Price to See, Films I'd Add to the NetFlix Queue, and Films I Might Watch When They Come to Free Cable If I Was Stuck in Bed with a Rare Paralyzing Disease and the Remote Control was Out of Reach.
Full Price Duma: A South African boy attempts to return his pet cheetah to the wild. Nothing ground-breaking here, but animal photography can usually make me go "oooh" at least. Besides, when you have young cousins, you sort of have to keep your eyes open for good family films to take them to when you have a turn to baby-sit, otherwise you end up taking them to see stuff like Robots
Old Boy: This is one of those nearly contentless trailers that only give you the vaguest notion of what the film's plot might be. But it looks very nice, and the structure of this type of action film usually appeals to me.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Oh, like there's any chance I'm not going to go see this the day it opens. The fact that it actually looks, you know, good and funny is only a bonus.
Kingdom of Heaven: I'm fairly certain I've talked about this before. Still, this is one of those movies with a trust-worthy enough cast, and pretty enough pictures, that I'll probably find the time to go see it, regardless of whether or not it turns out to be any good.
Masculine Feminine: A Godard film I haven't seen? In a beautiful new print? Starring Jean-Pierre Leaud and Chantal Goya? With songs by Chantal Goya? And it's a French sex comedy? I'm so there.
Sin City: I am tremendously amused by the fact that this film is coming out on April Fool's Day. I find it appropriate. (Oh, and I have to put the film in this category. Pete has decided that we Will Be seeing the film.)
High Tension: I like French suspense films. There's a certain aesthetic approach to the genre that the French have that appeals to me. Sort of like the Italian approach to slasher movies or the Spanish approach to zombie films. Granted, this does rather mean that every once in awhile you get a film like Crimson Rivers, but this film looks to add every "last girl" element of the slasher genre onto a suspense film, and that's a blending of horror modes that I find myself very curious to see.
Wallace and Gromit: Another film that Pete has decided we Will Be going to see, but I don't mind so much as it does look fun and silly and entertaining, as opposed to unintentionally funny.
Bad News Bears: Does it look good? No. Did it need to be made? Oh hell no. But Billy Bob Thornton makes me laugh, especially in this kind of reprobate role. He's oddly suited to them.
Downfall: A film about the citizens of Berlin in the final days of World War Two has me intrigued. I couldn't care less about Hitler going insane in a bunker. Whether I actually see this or not will depend heavily on which approach is more strongly emphasized.
Crash: Very rarely does a film of the "self-important drama" school actually arouse my interest. But this film has an excellent cast, and the intersecting drama approach can frequently make for good films, when done well.
Stealth: Wow, who knew Jaime Foxx would choose to follow up his Academy Award winning role with an over-the-top comedy about pilots fighting an evil robot plane? Wait, what do you mean it's not a comedy? You can't possibly mean that they made this film in earnest?
Dallas 362: The "young men in trouble" genre is a bit played out, at the moment, but the notion of Scott Caan directing a film has me intrigued, and I like the cast.
Zathura: It's Jumanji in space! Yeah, not a good idea.
Herbie: Fully Loaded: As much nostalgic fondness as I have for Herbie from when I was a kid, there is no way in hell I'm going to voluntarily go to see a movie starring Lindsey Lohan, or any of the other interchangeable blond teenage girl celebrities.
XXX2: The first one was only barely tolerable thanks to the combination of Asia Argento and Vin Diesel. This film has neither of them, thus making it yet another "things blow up" movie.
Palindromes: I'm going to make myself unpopular here. I find Todd Solendz films exploitive, so when I see he's making a movie about the sexuality of pre-teen girls, I cringe.
Death of a Dynasty: Rap humor. Not my thing. Maybe if I even had half-a-clue who any of these people are I might be interested.
Robots: Why are people willing to tolerate in a computer-animated film, unfunny "antics" and stale jokes and tired cliches that they'd hate in a live-action film? Is it the novelty of the technique?
A Scanner Darkly: Wow. Four of the most annoying actors in a film with an extremely annoying visual style. Here's a hint for directors: if you want to make a live-action film make a live-action film, if you want to make an animated film make an animated film. This "having it both ways," animation over filmed actors stuff just looks ugly and unappealing. If it didn't look good when Ralph Bakshi did it in Lord of the Rings, why on Earth would you think it would look good now.
No, not a major declaration or a call to arms. But do you have any idea how tiresome it can be to try to care about comic books and comic book news sometimes? Especially when, on most days, the last thing in the world I want to do after staring at comic books for eight hours is talk about the damn things. So, for at least one week, I'm not going to talk about comic books on the site at all. This will give me ample time, it looks like, to talk about all kinds of other things I like to talk about. And while this does mean that there's an off-chance that I might have to wait a week to talk about the Marvel and DC solicitations when they inevitably get leaked, it also means that by the time I can talk about comics again I might not have to pretend to care that Tenjo Tenge got edited.
I put away a complete run of Werewolf by Night and a complete run of American Power. I also heavily discounted a lot of manga titles, mostly Comics One, Raijin and Ironcat titles. This is largely due to me being tired of having series that don't sell take up space on the shelves. If this batch of discounted titles moves out of the store quickly, I may mark a few more titles down. So, uh, anyone want a complete run of Wounded Man?
Phrases I don't want to overhear at work: "Mommy, I made poop in my pants."
Conversations I'm tired of having with customers: "I want you to permit me to do something that not only violates your store's stated policy regarding the acceptance of credit cards, it also violates your merchant agreement with every credit card company, on the grounds that some other merchant somewhere permitted me to do this, therefore this is the proper way to do things." (That may not be precisely what she said, but that's what she meant.) No, I'm not going to do that. "Well! You are a terrible person, you have been very rude to me, and your customer service is the worst I've ever seen!"
Trade Whore is having a neat Paul Pope contest. To win, all you have to do is create a mix-tape with a theme of "relationships."
I'm finally getting sick of looking at the stacks of both read and unread manga.
Fruits Basket Vol. 7 by Natsuki Takaya: The charm for this series isn't so much the fantasy elements and the cute transformations, it's the gentle humor and the delicacy of the emotional relationships between the characters. In this volume, a new Zodiac member is introduced, Hiro Sohma, an obnoxious child determined to make Tohru's life difficult. But as usual, there's a deeper cause for his resentment of Tohru, one that's understandable and handled by Takaya very well. We also get an extended flashback sequence detailing how Arisa first met Tohru and her late mother and the origin of the bond between the girls.
Tuxedo Gin Vol. 10 by Tokihiko Matsuura: A rival for Ginji's affection is thrown into the mix, penguin trainer Kyoko Iida. Letting slide for the moment that she falls in love more with the idea of Ginji from seeing his old room, the story does take a nicely comic turn as Kyoko begins a one-sided rivalry with Minako for the love of Ginji, a rivalry Minako is completely oblivious to in her usual manner. It culminates in an over-the-top multi-part Christmas story involving aquatic stunts, paper bikinis and penguins in devil costumes. In short, funny, patently absurd stuff. The volume winds up with a short bonus story, "Double Lesson" about a student teacher and a rebellious student and the attraction between them.
Ranma 1/2 Vol. 29 by Rumiko Takahashi: Comic misunderstandings and silly situations abound. Oh, and boy-type Ranma and Kuno confess their love for one another. Honestly, at 29 volumes in, either you like this sort of thing or you don't.
Tokyo Babylon Vol. 2 by CLAMP: This is the title that really tests my patience with CLAMP's work. The protagonist, Subaru, is almost too much of a pretty boy. And the stories have a vaguely reactionary feel to them at times that puts me a little off. It's a combination, I think, of the age of the stories, the fact that the stories are marketed at adolescent girls (and though there may be a 14 year old girl inside every gay man, I'm still not an adolescent girl at heart), and just essential cultural differences between Japan and America, that left me unsettled by the resolution.
Worst Vol. 2 by Hiroshi Takahashi: The resolution of the fight to see which freshman is the strongest is dealt with quickly, wisely allowing the story to advance. The motivations of the other characters in wanting to see how far the seemingly naive Hana will go in his quest to become the boss of the school adds a welcome layer to the story. The upperclassmen either want Hana to join their gangs and control more of the school or they want something more out of life than dropping out of school, joining a gang and meeting a bad end, and they see Hana's goal of uniting the school as a way to bring dignity and order through their lives. Order and dignity through fighting...it really is a concept that works best in manga. To further complicate matters, not only is a rival school making plans against the whole of Suzuran school, and a mysterious upperclassman actually manages to defeat Hana.
Musashi #9 Vol. 2 by Takahashi Miyuki: I'm glad I gave this series another chance. I was underwhelmed by the first volume, and thought there was a sameness and repetitiveness to the stories. To a certain degree that's true here as well, the basic formula of #9 being inserted into a situation in disguise and getting the best of her enemies by being two or three steps ahead of them carries through. But the stories here are longer, allowing the supporting characters and the situations to be more developed. And the "gag" of #9 being mistaken for a boy is downplayed a little, and in most cases it becomes apparent early in the stories that #9 is actually a girl. The art is stellar, as it was in the first volume.
A few more titles to go, but I need content for the weekends.
In other manga news, Digital Manga Presents has announced several new titles, including several yaoi titles. Of the new batch of books, Jazz looks to be the one I'm most interested in. And that's in addition to the much anticipated by me releases of Café Kichijouji de and Antique Bakery. So in a short time there will be lots of attractive new titles from DMP to look forward to.
I also remembered once I got to work that I meant to add links to Brad Rader's Flaming Artist and Jack Lawrence's and Theo Bain's BritDoodz.
Speaking of gay comics, Tim Fish's Cavalcade of Boys is now collected into three digest-sized trade paper-backs. The first two volumes are now available at his site, and all three volumes will soon be available through Diamond.
Only three days until DWNTACW here at (postmodernbarney.com)...
The things you find used as book-marks in old comics...The red is actually much darker, but it's a weird shade of red that my scanner doesn't like.
Contests: Rick Gebhardt is giving away a copy of the Daisy Kutter trade. If your store has been anything like mine, they haven't been able to keep this series in stock, so this may be a great chance for you to get yourself a copy of this series.
Also, Milo George is selling swag on eBay to fund the fight against Endemic Treponematosis. Lots of good strip reprints to be had there, and auctions are kind of like contests.
Links: Word on the Street: Dr. Sordid almost always has something good to say in my comments section.
Delenda Est Carthago is one of those great blogs that defies categorization because the author just talks about whatever art and culture he feels like talking about today. But I'm putting it under comics blogs because the ratio feels weighted that way.
Why is Blogger telling me my document conains no data when I try to make changes to my template?
I haven't really had too much to say on the topics of either Inventory Control or New Comics Day lately. I do feel vaguely dirty for buying one of those McFarlane Dragons action figures, but I have two big boxes full of dragon toys and models in my mother's garage as testimony to the fact that I don't have much self-control on that score. The real test will be the upcoming Red Riding Hood figure, and whether or not I can refrain from adding that to my collection.
I've also avoided saying anything about the Tenjo Tenge "controversy" (Chris Butcher has a good run-down), because honestly, I don't think it's a book that DC should have published. And for me to come out and say that the book's content is probably pushing the limits of acceptability, you know it must be some pretty extremely distasteful stuff. Not that I have a problem with the book being published, I just don't think this is something that should have had a DC logo on it. Because had they left it uncensored, the complaints would be that DC is now publishing porn, and DC would be in the same boat they're in now. Publishing the book was a no-win situation for a corporation like DC. And frankly, I'm a little bit worried about the manga fans who are getting in a snit about it. Because, essentially, what they're saying is "we want more violent, masochistic, border-line porn rape comics." And as it is, I already know more about my customers than I want to, thanks to their porn buying habits.
Speaking of porn, I've noticed that the only people who buy X-23 at our store fall into three categories: people who buy all X-Men comics, older men who buy all comics with female characters on the cover, and people who buy lots of porno and T&A comics. Make of that what you will. I know I am.
I can always tell what precise question Mike is being asked on the phone by his answer, the look on his face, and the tone of his voice. When he's being extremely polite, there's a good chance he's talking to the person who has already called four times today with the same question.
I recently had the opportunity to watch "Rose," the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who, written by Russell T Davies. It was good.
Perhaps you wanted more information than that? Well, the first thing they did correctly was in not taking the show too seriously. There's a strong thread of humor running through the episode, which makes the dramatic and scary moments that much more effective. Take the choice of villains for the premiere: the Autons. Evil alien gestalt capable of mentally remote-controlling anything made of plastic. And they exercise this ability most frequently by bringing mannequins to life. It's on the surface a very silly concept, store dummies going on a murderous rampage. But just below that surface is the acknowledgement that such a thing happening is a fundamental violation of everything we know about how the world works, and so there's good potential for fright there.
For a long time fan of the show, it feels both familiar and new. It's a bit early to say that Christopher Eccleston has made the character of the Doctor his own now. In this first episode he's manic, irritable, kind, uncaring, rude, sympathetic and above all just a little bit alien to those around him. It's an amalgam of traits we've seen in various incarnations of the Doctor before, and Eccleston plays the role so enthusiastically it works. There's a moment, near the end of the episode, where Eccleston precisely captures the essential loneliness of the Doctor, that is perfectly played. Billie Piper I'd seen in other shows prior to this, and I was less than enthusiastic about seeing her on the show, but she puts in an appealing performance that disarmed me. Her Rose is both bored with her life and clearly longing for something more to do than just show up at her job five days a week and then go home to the council flat she shares with her mother. She's no Ace, but then she's no Peri either, and in a welcome change from the show's formula, she gets to be the one to save the Doctor instead of the other way around.
Production wise, the show looks good, comparable to many other recent BBC shows, and the digital video doesn't look cheap as I feared. Yes, some of the CGI is a bit dodgy, but it's BBC budget dodgy, not "I am a cinematic genius for having the ground-breaking idea of filming actors against a blue screen" dodgy. The script by Davies is, as I mentioned, funny and dramatic, and more than a little knowing at times, which I suspect is the element most specifically thrown in to please existing Who fans. My only exposure to Davies has been his Doctor Who novels, so I was pleased to find that he's actually a good script-writer as well. (I, perhaps unfairly, have never been willing to watch the UK version of Queer As Folk, as one episode of the US version convinced me that the concept of the show was a waste of my time.) The music was a bit irritating, and the title sequence was painfully dull, but some rumors suggest that the final versions of both won't be seen until broadcast.
There have been some criticisms of the show on-line, and in fact the Sci-Fi Channel apparently passed on it because they didn't feel the show met their high standards for programming. As far as that goes, that's probably a good thing for Doctor Who. The Sci-Fi Channel is increasingly narrowcasting to an audience of nostalgic geeks that puts the comfort of the old above quality or originality. And primarily, and this is probably why the show is getting the critiques it is receiving, this version of Doctor Who is not a sci-fi show. It's a family adventure show, a general audience show, with science-fiction elements. This is not a show for people who have every cast-list for the first season of Star Trek memorized. This is a show for people who want an entertaining, sometimes funny, sometimes dramatic, sometimes scary show, and who don't mind some nonsense about time-traveling aliens in blue boxes giving that to them.
It was another small week, so I will once again attempt to say something about each of the books Pete or I purchased last week.
Exiles #60: From Pete's list. Normally I find this an entertaining read, but I couldn't get more than a couple of pages into this issue. I blame the Age of Apocalypse tie-in element. So, in addition to trying to figure out who each of these characters are, I have to try and figure out who they are in relation to an alternate timeline continuity I've never even read before? No thanks.
Nodwick #27: If nothing else, Aaron Williams is good at pacing. Each issue of each of his books stands on its own, but it also advances the meta-plot forward, however incrementally. The bigger storyline advances a little more this time around, slightly to the detriment of the humor. It's not as strong as Williams' regular work, but still an entertaining mix of absurd situations and character based jokes.
Ultimate Spider-Man #73: From Pete's list. The entire story gets side-tracked for an issues worth of flash-backs. Oh, and lots of splash pages and really, really big panels. And talking heads and reaction shots. Now, not that there's anything wrong with any of those things, on their own, every once in awhile. But it's reaching the over-kill point on this title, and if the number of customers dropping the book at our store are any indication, I'm not alone in thinking that.
Deadshot #4: The prelude to the conclusion. I'm not really seeing a big redemptive moment coming for Deadshot. He is an assassin after all, and a pretty loathsome guy in most regards. But Christos Gage has done such a good job of humanizing the character that I'm also really dreading the apocalyptic finale the last page splash of this issue seems to imply. (On the other hand, looking at the villains assembled for the assault on Deadshot, I have a tough time imaging them being capable of too much damage.)
Fallen Angel #19: Maybe it's for the best that this title lie low for a little while. It's been a little aimless for the last few issues, and I really don't see how introducing two not very well known characters from another no longer published Peter David title into this story can help it gain back momentum.
Dicks Winter Special: From Pete's list. Oh, all right, from my list. Not the strongest offering from Ellis and McCrea, but the promise of a third mini-series does arouse my interest. And it's wrong of my, but I thought the Al Kyda: World's Unluckiest Man strip in the back was sickly hilarious.
Detective #804: I was vaguely dissatisfied with this issue. It felt like a "place-holder" issue, just out there to keep the story going. The fight against Mr. Freeze felt like an excuse to try and keep the story engaging, not an integral element of the story. Even the conclusion to the back-up feature was disappointing.
Firestorm #11: From Pete's list. I've been enjoying this book, but it's also the first time I've tried to read a Firestorm book. So, I have no idea who any of these bad guys who hate Ronnie Raymond are, nor why I should think they're scary. It's a similar problem to the current Hawkman arc, only at least Hawkman's villains are a little more menacing. A giant half-man/half-lion is a lot scarier than an evil version of the Multiple Man.
Legend #1: It's Howard Chaykin and Russ Heath doing a knowing, dark retelling of a Superman-esque character in a less heroically optimistic world than your standard super-hero universe. It's right up my alley. Heath's art is classical, a little stiff in comparison to modern standards maybe, but still expressive and detailed. And it's Chaykin being Chaykin, so whether or not you think it's well-written will largely depend on how you feel about Chaykin's work.
But first, two contests: Dave at Yet Another Comics Blog is giving away Spider-Girl digests. It's a nice little all ages, girl friendly super-hero series, and frankly of far better quality than Marvel's recent attempts to do an all-ages, girl friendly super-hero series on purpose. And all you have to do is tell Dave who you think should play Spider-Girl in a movie, and why.
The folks at Ferret Press are giving away several individual issues of a couple of different titles in exchange for answering the question: What single issue of a comic did you pick up on a whim and find entertaining, but just not enough to get you to buy the whole series? Please explain why.
And now, the search terms
t****b**** Still the most frequent word to show up in searches. I'm half tempted to go back through all my entries, find every occurrence of this word, and replace it with the word "fish head-ache."
brad pitt's tattoo Also becoming a popular search term, and a phrase I think I've only ever used in discussions of search terms.
lingham massage The too-common search term I only have myself to blame for.
Jake Shears naked Jake Shears nude As I said last time, find me some nude pictures of Babydaddy, and we'll talk.
teen titans now ones real fun ones i do not wont any pictures just to play This is why children shouldn't be allowed to use the internet without supervision.
beefcake high school pictures Go dig up some Athletic Model Guild photos. That's probably as close as you're going to get.
fetish trailers I'm now envisioning a RV park filled with dominatrixes.
avengers captain america gay porn Well, there always has been a healthy market for ex-military guys in the gay porn industry, and he's gotta draw a salary from somewhere...
city of heroes gay Whoanellie. There are times, watching some of the toons go by, that I wonder if there are any straight people who play this game.
some dirty comics for adults for free in full size I just posted Big Dick and Miss Thing cartoons yesterday! (Man, I'm going to get all kinds of interesting search terms this month because of that, aren't I?)
archie comics gay cover beat off Now, I know I've posted that picture...but I can't seem to find it now, and I'm not going through the archives to look for it.
crappy superman stories Oh man...where to begin...
the wicker man feminist analysis Huh. Well, it'd be very hard to see any kind of pro-female message in the film, as all the women are either nubile young women running around naked or up to something sinister.
hispanic buying patterns and sock purchases Wait...are you asking me if hispanic people buy socks?
gay man with moustache
100 things you don't know about me I think someone got their meme wires crossed.
i have crap parents Now, how do I know that the person who wrote this must be 20 years old or younger?
spiderman has just made you gay No, if any Marvel character made me gay, it was Hercules.
list of heroes in the legion of super heroes comic book Here you go.
beefcake playing darts Surely I must have a photo like that somewhere.
charlie and the chocolate factory christian allegories You did get that all the "bad" kids were embodiments of various sins, right?
why aren t the pictures i put in there using html not showing up on my livejournal Well, either you don't know HTML as well as you like, or you're attempting to hot-link an image from someone who doesn't want you to.
a gay x-man? Not anymore.
gayest dick Richard Grayson.
bisley isn't as good as we used to be Wait...as you used to be?
too tired too obtuse this time i feel i m just not getting through You and me both, buddy.
betty and veronica from archie comics topless Oh, good, because for a minute there I thought maybe you were looking for some other Betty and Veronica.
strengths weaknesses robots Well, they're tireless workers, but the lack the capacity for love...
movie makers looking for gay men I'm guessing that there's really only one type of movie that this could apply to.
whatever happened to the kids on barney Their parents stole all their money and now they work as building superintendents in New York.
chimpanzee plot murder observation So...you've observed chimps planning to murder someone, and you didn't notify the police? Doesn't that make you an accessory?
jailhouse wedding Ever watch Oz, back when it was good?
annoying price hagglers I go out of my way to annoy them at every opportunity. I consider it karma.
what opera singer said the mind is a terrible thing to waste commercial? I have no idea what this person is talking about.
female equivalent of tom of finland I really can't imagine that there is such a thing.
pictures of gay marvel super heroes having gay xxx sex Well, let's see...there's Hector and a character in New Invaders...doesn't seem like a likely pairing to me.
superman and captain marvel and erotic and fight Now, this is a picture I've seen before. I'm not going to post it, but I do know that this idiom of picture exists.
...And All I Have To Show For It Is A Book Of Dirty Gay Cartoons That's Older Than I Am.
This is Your Life, Miss Thing (with Big Dick Right Behind), by Joe Johnson, copyright 1973. It's very much in the tradition of the sort of slightly risque, "men's magazine" type gags, only with gay characters and lots of gratuitous nudity. The art style is an attractive mix of Tom of Finland and the, for lack of a better word, New Yorker "house style."
A good three-quarters of the book is devoted to the amorous adventures of Miss Thing, an unapologetically effeminate queen with a penchant for making mischief and converting straight men.
The book finishes up with a selection of Big Dick's adventures. The humor in the Big Dick strip is much along the same line as Miss Thing, but where Miss Thing is slyly naughty, Big Dick is just out-and-out raunchy.
I'll have more of my vacation finds in the days and weeks ahead.
As a kid, I never had much patience for Westerns. It was a genre that just never appealed to me, probably because most of the films I was shown took themselves far too seriously. I do remember pestering my parents into taking me to see Legend of the Lone Ranger and Zorro, The Gay Blade, but that almost certainly had more to go with having seen the cartoons. And I probably only watched the cartoons because Tarzan was the lead-in.
The sole exception to this trend was, well, any movie with James Garner in it. There was something very charismatic about his laid-back screen persona, especially in the light-hearted Westerns he made, such as Support Your Local Gunfighter and the absolutely brilliant Support Your Local Sheriff. When I was a kid, James Garner was the coolest thing around.
The Long Haul, the new graphic novel by Antony Johnston and Eduardo Barreto, available March 9th from Oni, reminds me of those James Garner films. You've got a charismatic rogue as the hero, in this case a "retired" bank robber named Cody Plummer, and a colorful cast of supporting players, each one both a charming character in their own rights and evocative of a Western stock role. Cody finds out that the final federal pay-out for railroad construction is soon to be leaving for San Francisco, and it's going to be guarded by Bob Harding, the Pinkerton agent who put him away for bank robbing. Cody gets the whole gang back together for one final heist, with their target the "unrobbable" money carriage. This would give each of them not only more money than they could ever need to retire, but it would be a suitable humiliation of the arrogant Pinkerton man who put Cody away.
Johnston has written a great caper book. The book, and the plan, unfolds wonderfully. The introduction of each member of Cody's gang is like a little Western story all on its own, and the reader is wisely kept out of the loop on the details of Cody's plan, so the actual execution retains excitement and mystery and surprises for the reader, and more than a few unexpected turns. And Eduardo Barreto's art contributes magnificently as well. The opening sequence combines marvelously detailed landscapes, Native American costumes and a train, setting the tone visually for the book in a compelling manner. Barreto's art has that fantastic combination of expressive characters, detail and smooth, clean lines that makes for great comics art, and it's a combination that you don't often see in comics anymore.
This was a fun book, and I enjoyed it tremendously. It combines the best elements of a good crime caper story with a Garner-esque Western comedy. And the creative talent is great as well. I've yet to be disappointed in any of Antony Johnston's work that I've read, and more work from Eduardo Barreto is always going to be a good thing. With the return of interest in Western comics, this is a more than welcome addition to the ranks of quality Westerns.
Only the Ring Finger Knows by Satoru Kannagi and Hotaru Odagiri. If there was ever a shojo comics stereotype that is deserved, and actually does sort of distract me, it's the flowers that occasionally pop up out of nowhere to frame the characters. And it's a shame that it does distract me, because otherwise I found the art in this book to be very strong and evocative. There's a weediness to the adolescent figures that's both suggestive of the fact that they're still growing and symbolic of their emotional fragility.
Emotional fragility is at the core of this book. Wataru Fuji is vaguely annoyed to discover that the popular and handsome senior Yuichi Kazuki wears a ring identical to his. At their school the trend for people to identify their dating status depends on where they place their rings, and once word gets out that Wataru and Yuichi have matching rings, rumors start to swirl about their relationship. Wataru is especially upset because Yuichi, who has a reputation as being a kind and compassionate person to all, is always cruel and indifferent to him. Despite all this, Wataru finds himself increasingly attracted to Yuichi.
Wataru's progress in his feelings for Yuichi struck me as being a very realistic portrayal of the uncertainty of adolescent love. As a gay man, I thought the romance was perhaps slightly unrealistic, especially in the casual way that everyone's relatives just take the prospect of two teenage boys falling in love, but at heart most romances are fantasy, and the target audience for a book like this isn't gay men after all. My only real complaint is that at the end, after everyone has their happy ending, Yuichi still comes off not as a confused adolescent in love, but as a manipulative jerk. Wataru can do better, frankly.
Passion Vol. 1 by Shinobu Gotoh and Shoko Takaku also makes the theme of the confusion and fragility of adolescent love central to its story. Hikaru is in love with Mr. Shima, a teacher at his school. Mr. Amamiya and Mr. Shima used to be an item and Amamiya is trying to rekindle their relationship.
Of the two books, the relationships and characters in this book were the most recognizably "gay." That is, the characters read more like gay men to me, and not so much as idealized romantic fantasy figures for girls. Which isn't to say that there aren't a few problematic aspects to the relationships in this book. As other commentators have pointed out, there is a degree of sexual violence, and fairly stereotypical sex roles, in this title and a lot of the more sexually themed and/or explicit yaoi titles. But I've been on the receiving end of more "enthusiastic advances" in inappropriate places than I care to remember, so I identify with the notion that some gay men are tactless on sexual matters. The implication that Hikaru raped Mr. Shima (I read the situation as being slightly more complicated than a straight-forward sexual assault), especially when it's what opens the story, is a little off-putting. As is the fact that Shima essentially "punishes" Hikaru by beginning a clandestine sexual relationship with him, as well as being a manipulative jerk.
So, I'm sort of conflicted about this book. On the one hand, I actually find the story pretty compelling, but the art a little weak (I can barely tell the difference between Amamiya and Hikaru, and I can't tell if it's a deliberate art choice or just the artist having a limited style for drawing faces and figures). And even though this is the yaoi title that seems the most "gay" to me, there are aspects of the story, particularly involving sex roles, that just feel a little off.
(Now, waits patiently for some brave publisher to translate the works of Gengorah Tagame, Go Fujimoto, Iwao Iwata or Echigoya Shinnosuke--or, you know, any of the gay artists in Japan doing gay comics for gay men.)
Bonus features! Mostly as an excuse to link-blog some stuff that isn't wispy adolescent boys.
Chris Evans Daily--Pictures of that good-lookin' guy who plays Johnny Storm in the upcoming FF movie (see, it's sort of comics related).
The way we display the copies of Previews at the store generally involves putting alternating covers face-up. I've noticed that the copies that have been put out with the Green Lantern cover face-up are selling much better than the ones with an advertisement for yet another Todd McFarlane toy line.
The trade paper-back collection of Seamonsters and Superheroes has an incredibly poor choice for a cover image. It's an abstract, mandala-like pattern using pictures from the book, with neither the title nor the author discernible anywhere on it. I've mentioned before how sometimes, with some "indie" books, it's not so much the quality of the book that's the selling point, but how much hipster cred owning the book gives you. This design seems intended to appeal to the "hipster cred" market.
Antarctic Press also released a guide to coloring comics. I could make a joke about how that's almost like Rob Liefeld releasing a guide to human anatomy, but it seems unnecessarily cruel.
There's nothing I like more on a busy Wednesday morning than helping a customer go through about a dozen boxes of badly drawn porno comics. Oh, wait, no...I hate doing that.
The collected edition of Teenagers From Mars came out. It's a great book, well worth checking out. I especially liked the pin-up section in the back. Having Mike Diana contribute an illustration to a book about censorship and scape-goating appeals to me greatly.
I know this observation isn't original to me, but whenever I see something from an older cartoonist that makes an uninformed and dismissive comment about manga, the mental image I have is of a dinosaur telling a rodent-like creature: "Oh, you mammals, with your ability to adjust to changes in temperature and internal reproduction! Don't you know that we giant lizards are the pinnacle of evolution?"
If you'd told me a year ago that an Age of Apocalypse revamp would be our best-selling book this week I'd have called you a dirty liar, and I don't know, maybe I'd have hit you or something.
Things I shouldn't have to tell a co-worker: "Stop talking like a pirate! (No, for once I'm not talking about Mike.)
I finally got my Hustler Superboy to go with my Leather Daddy Wolverine!
I'm going to go against my usual habit and actually try to say something about each of the books I bought last week, instead of just talking about the ones I have something specific to say about.
Losers #21: The last page revelation was actually something I've been expecting for quite some time now. Otherwise, a lot of this issue felt like a "place-holder" story, moving us along from the events of last issue and preparing us for the events of the next. It's one of those occasionally regrettable necessities of serial story-telling. Striking cover though.
Conan #13: Despite a good deal of action in the form of giant monsters attacking the caravan, and a large amount of exposistion, this also felt largely like a "place-holder" issue. I enjoyed it all the same, because really, how can you go wrong with Conan fighting monsters.
The Witching #9: Well, I enjoyed this series anyway.
Wonder Woman #213: I'm enjoying this book, but I rarely feel like I have anything to say about it. The most effective "review" I could give of any given issue is "I liked it, but the plotting is so careful and precise you really need to have been reading it for some time to follow all the details of the story." And that's not a bad thing, but I don't know that it's a thing worth elaborating on.
Flash #219: Honestly, I generally don't like the way Geoff Johns writes this book. I just have trouble wrapping my head around a gritty, crime-drama version of the character.
Batgirl #61: From Pete's list. It's a reasonably amusing super-hero action comic, and Gabyrich is doing a pretty good job on it, but man, that costume is such a turn-off. Batgirl is one of those female characters that the general populace has at least heard of, and we do occasionally have parents and young girls come in looking for books with the character in them. Luckily, we have plenty of comics featuring the Barbara Gordon version of the character to sell, since parents are really bothered by this character's costume. Still, Monsieur Mallah and the Brain are always fun.
X-Men: Phoenix Endsong #3: From Pete's list. The first two issues were surprisingly good. This one was a bit of a let-down. It suffers heavily from "middle issue syndrome" in that it's neither the beginning nor the ending of the story, and so things just sort of happen in service to the plot.
Strange #4: From Pete's list. I actually really don't like the art on this title. Otherwise, it strikes me as kind of dull.
Teen Titans Go #16: I bought this only because the baby Wildebeest was the best thing about the post-Titans Hunt New Titans, and it was nice to see the character again.
Legion of Super-Heroes #3: Man, was this ever from Pete's list. He really liked it. Me, I don't see why everyone is getting so excited about the Legion being put back to its 70s status-quo, with a few "twists" thrown in to make it seem new and different.
Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink #1: I liked the zero issue, and I've enjoyed the back-ups in other Dork Storm books, but this issue fell flat for me.
Outsiders #21: Well, I'm amused by super-heroes arguing.
Batman #637: I'm really enjoying Winick's run on the book so far. I'm glad he's given Batman back something resembling a sense of humor, I'm glad the general tone of the book is lightening a little, and I really like the way Winick writes the villains. The make-it-or-break-it point will be the next issue, and the reveal of the Red Hood's identity. It's either going to be brilliant or silly.
Ultimate Nightmare #5: The series as a whole was a little hit-or-miss, but it ends on a high note. I don't think anyone is surprised to learn that this was all a prelude to Ultimate Galactus. It's also worth noting that Ellis writes the Ultimates much better than he writes the X-Men. Not only do they sound like themselves, they actually come off as semi-competent.
Y: The Last Man #31: Another one of those books that all I can really say about it is "It's good." The art is very good, and Vaughan is great at pacing and knowing when to put cliff-hangers in and when to resolve things. And I like that the book gets new complications just as old ones are resolved. It's excellent serial fiction, in other words.
Solo #3: The all Paul Pope issue. It's a good mix of material, with Pope taking on a couple of DC characters as well as just drawing whatever kind of story he felt like drawing. For a series like this, that's probably the best approach to take. And it's quality material all throughout.
Seven Soldiers #0: Well, it's a dense, meta-textual commentary about super-hero comics, as well as being a straight-forward super-hero adventure. I thought it was fantastic. It's very much in the Morrison tradition of throwing ideas at the reader and demanding that you keep up. Overall, I'd say it's a bit more "straight-forward super-hero" than "dense commentary," if only because as prologue to the massive undertaking Morrison has set himself up for here a lot of the clues won't make sense or have context until later issues. Which I'm okay with. I like to see work in the adventure genre that strives to be a little bit more than a passive entertainment, that expects a little thought and patience from the reader.