Saturday, July 30, 2005

Teenage Boys and Teenage Girls

Dirk Deppey has a great editorial in the new Comics Journal, which you can also read online, called "She's Got Her Own Thing Now." The issue, and the article, are about shoujo manga, Japanese graphic novels for for teenage girls:

Speaking for myself, the straw that broke the camel's back fell during this year's Emerald City Con in Seattle. I'd stepped out to smoke a cigarette and was watching the passersby. I noticed a family leaving the convention -- a Mom, a Dad, and a little girl no older than eight years of age. The girl was decked out in a beautiful, elaborate kimono and clearly distressed by what she'd just encountered. "But they didn't hardly have any manga at all!" she said as they walked away.

When I was done with my cigarette, I went back inside and relayed this story to an acquaintance prominent in the art-comics publishing scene. "I hate to say it, but good," was his reply. Indeed, I told the story several more times that day, to both indy-comics and superhero-comics professionals, and the reaction was more or less the same each time. A young reader disappointed by the selection offered to her? Good. The future of comics walks out the door, unable to find what she wants? Good. I left the convention early, lost in a foul mood. I swear: I love the comics art form with a passion, but my utter contempt for the American comics industry grows like a cancer with each passing day.

Every July or August I get to really thinking about comics and graphic novels, creatively and professionally; I also get to thinking about manga. How manga reaches a much broader audience, both in Japan and the US, then American comics do, and about how Japanese storytelling hits certain beats that aren't as embedded in my brain as Western storytelling moments are. Going to see Howl's Moving Castle made me think of this--even though it's based on a Western novel, it's adapted and directing by a Japanese filmmaker, and I just didn't know where the story was going or how it would unfold at times. It still has that classic three-act structure, sure, but that's just the bare-bones of it. The muscle and flesh built on top of the skeleton does things that surprise me in ways Western stories and movies usually don't, even the unconventional ones.

But whenever I get that itch to explore manga, I go to the local bookshop or comic store and stand before the racks and racks of manga--the local borders has about four times as many manga titles as American super-hero books--and I just get lost. There's so much, and I don't know the nuances of it all. I can flip open a super-hero title and get the gist of it, recognize the artist or the kind of story being told, know the era the comic is from and probably the company that put it out. I know genres, sub-genres and tendencies of the artists and writers involved, and I know whether or not I want to keep reading. But with manga, I just don't know what's what--I'm not educated in it, I don't recognize the patterns that are surely there to see, I don't know what to start with, what to move on to, where to go. So I tend to skink away, promise to come back a little later, and then never do.

But after reading the TCJ article, I went out and picked up a copy of Shonen Jump, the monthly American version of the popular Japanese weekly magazine that serializes a good 300-pages worth of new manga with each issue. Shonen means to boys what shoujo means to girls--they're comics for teenage boys. Yu-Gi-Oh! is one of the serialized stories in the current American version, for example. But I thought it would be a good place to start--a fat packet of culture for five bucks, right?

And Wizard World Chicago is next weekend, so I'll be headed to the 50% off trade-paperback boxes to grab whatever manga looks interesting--girl stuff, boy stuff, adult stuff, all of it. I'm not sure if that thinking-out-loud warrants its own entry here, except to say if anyone has some manga recommendations leave them here in the comments--I'll be keeping my eyes open.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Another Good Feeling.

Finally put the logo up on top. For now it’ll be on my Flickr account, but son I will move it to my server so as not to run the risk of bandwidth problems. What do you guys think?

Monday, July 25, 2005

A good feeling

I just let a little boy count a Calvin and Hobbes collection as a chapter book for his summer reading list. (He didn't think we would let him.)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Making out with Comics again

Since we're all about sharing the love of comics, I wanted to state a bit of love on Young Avengers:

Written by Allan Heinberg; Art by Jim Cheung, John Dell; Cover by Jim Cheung
MARVEL UNIVERSE | 32 PGS | Color | $2.99
The other listening to the Comic Geek Speak Podcast ( link) I was listening to comics they like of Marvel and heard the Title “Young Avengers” being said. Right there, my mind swirled with this vision of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America with Pacifiers in their mouth, in some horrible Teen Titan rip off attempt to make a cool teen fighting group to appeal to the teens out there in the Teen land of Teen America.
Then in the Podcast, they said it was good. It was a good book. It was? I couldn’t believe it. I thought maybe that the one crap book that’ll make it through the lines of good taste and people will only soon after repent on the alter of Comics for buying this crap. (Like Rob Liefeld fans from the early 90s)
So when I found issue #4 in the bookstore, I raised an eyebrow and took a look; Well that art was good and the bits here and there is spotted seemed great, and Kang looked old school, but now he was menacing and he felt like a villain. I liked it.
So grabbed Issue #4 and #5 and put them on the pile. After digesting all the good books I like and have been waiting for, I got to reading these issues, and you know what? The Comic Geeks (link) were right! This was good! When I started reading about the team and who they were and what there were trying to do, and seeing that it’s a just bunch of Fanboy’s who happen to have Superpowers I really dug them. They were teens too, they really acted like it; now one tried to be the adult here, and they had real worries, like the Appearance of Kang, and his younger self, and their powers and who they were and who lead. Ultimately this showed best when they’re biggest worry was that the Avenger were going to turn them over to the Cops or even worse, their parents! (DUN-DUN-DUN!)
I got this weird happiness form the Young Avengers that seemed familiar, and I pin pointed it now as I was writing this; it reminded me of the early days of the Gen 13 comics back in the 90s. Even though we still had all the idiocy of the prismatic and alternate covers in those days, the comics really stood out in story, the character involved were awesome, at first a bit trite, but sooner or later they were familiar faces to you and you understood their motivations for things, form dialogue to actions. They were fun, young and what’s happening, and when you mix that with superpowers, you gave a damn. Young Avengers delivers on that in this book, but in a less glamorous way but with the same energy it was a great read, and It made me realize that you needs book like these to counter balance at times the hard nosed anti hero plotlines of other books, by being a little bit lighter, human and caring on the developments of the character all the way being a little bit more fun, even in the action. Young Avengers has gone to the top of my list and I hope it can stay like that as long as the stories remain as interesting and ever changing as it has here.

What I may pick up this week:
NYX #6

Currently Reading:
Daredevil Legends
Green Lantern #1 & #2

Of course, not all is good in comics land. Just check out my review of BLOOD OF THE DEMON #5 & #6.
"Gone Gone from the from of Man
Turn into a comic I can not stand!"