Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Read this: 20 Favorite Female Creators of 2010

 It's impossible to choose just one picture from the articles to feature, so I defaulted to Hellboy and a talking pug. Hooray talking pugs!

Since I've already mentioned a Best of 2010 list for Japanese comics, it only seems fair to shine a little light on the year's best Western comics as well. And Kelly Thompson of the She Has No Head! column has written up the perfect list for this blog to bring to your attention: Her 20 favorite comics writin'-and/or-drawin' women!

She posted it up in pieces, but I'm gonna be nice and link you to part one and part two at the same time. Women may be a bit underrepresented in the comics biz, but what we lack in numbers these fine ladies have made up in talent.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Recommend: Aya

 Find the first volume at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Oh, Aya. Aya, Aya, Aya. I absolutely adore this series - it may very well be one of my favorite comics of all time. Why do I love Aya so much? Mostly because:

1. It's a tale about Africa that doesn't often get told.
Plenty of stories are set in African countries, and for the most part they focus on the harsher realities of the continent. It's important to tell these stories, of course, but it's also important to see stories about lighter struggles and triumphs. Set in the Ivory Coast in the 1970s, Aya puts everyday life in the spotlight, with pages in the back of every book devoted to local recipies, fashion, and slang.

2. It's incredibly well done, in a medium that's tricky to do well.
The colors are gorgeous - even with the cartoony art style, each panel feels just like a photograph of suburban Africa. The page layouts are simple without being boring. Smart choices in word balloon placement allow for tons of dialogue while never crowding panels. All this is even more remarkable when you consider it's the first comics work from both writer Marguerite Abouet and artist Clément Oubrerie. (A husband-and-wife team, as if this whole enterprise wasn't charming enough already.)

3. It's just plain fun.
Secret romances! Paternity mysteries! Fueds between friends! It's like a tawdry teen drama, but with enough wit to keep it well within the non-guilty please zone. Simultaneously breezy and substantial, it's hard to get your hands on a volume and not gobble it up like literary candy.

There are currently three volumes in the series, starting with Aya, then followed by Aya of Yop City, and then the most recent release, Aya: The Secrets Come Out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gallery Time: Queenie Chan

As you can see, she's pretty fantastic at drawing the folds in fabric.

Queenie Chan is an Australian artist, best known for her work on the Odd Thomas prequels with Dean Koontz and her original series The Dreaming. Take a look at some of the fine illustrations in the gallery on her official site!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Need a job? Get one with Digital Manga Inc.!

This may be just a smidge off-topic, but in this economy, unusual blog post choices can be forgiven!

You there! Do you live in or near Los Angeles? Are you adequately skilled at web design and programming? And are you looking for a job? Then you may be in luck, as Digital Manga Inc. is looking to hire people like you. An interest in anime and manga is considered a "plus" - I imagine newcomers to the comics medium are more than welcome to apply.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Huge News! Kodansha Comics is ALIVE!

Keep an eye on this logo, 'cause soon it'll be on bookshelves across the country.

In some of the best news to hit the US manga scene in a long while, Kodansha (one of the largest publishers in Japan, responsible for oodles of great manga) has announced its goals to publish manga in America!

(Well, technically, they've been in the game for a while, but only to reprint previously published series.)

You can read about their plans on the Kodansha Comics website. Perhaps most interesting to the Hey, Women! Comics! crowd are:

- Deltora Quest, an adaptation of the book series by Emily Rodda.

- Two series "rescued" from now-vanished publishers: Gon, about a cute little dinosaur, and Until the Full Moon, about a boy who turns into a girl under the full moon, werewolf-style.

- And the continued publication of several series from Kodansh'a old partner Del Rey, including Arisa, which made Deb Aoki's Best New Manga list recently, and Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, which you may remember me gushing over.

All in all, this is fantastic news. As the US branch of one of Japan's biggest publishers, Kodansha Comics has access to plenty of manga for women to fall in love with.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Read this: Interview with Amy Reeder

Admit it: This cover is the coolest thing you've seen all day.

Check out this interview with Amy Reeder, one of the great up-and-coming artists in the comic book world, as she talks about her work on Madame Xanadu, the new Batwoman series, and more:

Well, I happen to very much like doing covers. When you do enough interiors it’s a nice break. DC suggested “Supergirl” to me and once again the first thing that came to mind was an artist that I respect, Josh Middleton. I was familiar with what he was doing on the covers and I was definitely drawn to the idea. [. . .] I’m a perpetual teenager so it’s really fun to do that and it’s such a big contrast from Batwoman, it’s nice to switch between the two.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Read this: State Dept. Brings U.S. Comics Creators to Algerian Comics Festival

When discussing countries with a rich comics culture, the most familiar regions are North America, Western Europe, and East Asia. North African countries are unlikely to come to mind, but as this article shows, comics and cartoons are thriving in places like Algeria:

"Algeria has an interesting mix of French and Arab influences," Neufeld said. "The French influence has left them with a healthy interest in 'bandes-dessinees,' so their long-form comics tend to be in that European mode. The Arab world's love of political cartoons and editorial cartoons is also in evidence: there are over 80 daily papers just in Algiers, and each one has an in-house political cartoonist."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This looks interesting: Lola: A Ghost Story

Find this graphic novel at: [Amazon] [Borders]

Description from the publisher (Oni Press):
Jesse sees dead people, monsters, demons, and lots of other things that go bump in the night that no one else can see. No one except his ailing grandmother - a woman who used her visions to help those living in her small town. The same rural community in all the scary stories Jesse's heard as a child. Man-eating ogres in trees. Farmhouses haunted by wraiths. Even pigs possessed by the devil. Upon his grandmother's passing, Jesse has no choice but to face his demons and whatever else might be awaiting him at grandma's house.

See what some reviewers have to say about this graphic novel:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Read this: 2010's Best New Manga

Three good-lookin' manga from Deb Aoki's list.

We're right on the edge of December, and you know what that means: it's shopping season! And whether you're hunting down presents for your friends or looking for a way to treat yourself, odds are you could use some advice to help you sort through the thousands of gifts available.

Thankfully, Deb Aoki of About.com's manga guide has put together a list of the best manga of 2010. Better yet, it's a list of this year's best new manga, so you can follow a series right from the beginning or grab a one-volume masterpiece while it's still fresh from the printers.

She's also put together a list of continuing series, if you want to see what's been hot for the past couple of years, and mentions some duds that you may wish to avoid.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Check this out: Bento Comics

Now here's a clever idea! Take a look at Bento Comics, a collaborative effort of comics creators posting their short stories online. The coolness doesn't end there, though: Readers can choose their favorite chapters and combine them into a custom print-on-demand book edition. It's the best of both worlds: Take a look at the stories online, then buy them to read later!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I Recommend: Clan Apis

Find this graphic novel at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Bees? Bees. Bees! They buzz, they sting, they fly around open soda cans and make people feel uncomfortable. It seems like it'd be impossible to make a compelling comic about them - and yet that's exactly what Jay Hosler did with Clan Apis.

It's a sweet, funny, and occasionally heartbreaking story about Nyuki, a honeybee, as she grows from snarky, sassy larva to a snarky, sassy adult bee. It is, essentially, a coming-of-age story, albeit with far more bee trivia than most. (Hosler is something of a bee expert, and devotes large parts of the book to explaining bee society and behavior. Thankfully, he's a good enough storyteller to do this in a way that will keep even the most science-phobic folks entertained.)

On top of that, the artwork is fantastic. The expressions are clear and vibrant, which is especially impressive considering that all the characters are bugs (and, in one case, a flower) with no human characteristics whatsoever. Better yet, the panel layouts are dynamic without being too complicated, making this a fine first comic for anyone who likes books about growing up, biology, or both.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ask a comics creator!

One of the great things about the comics world these days is that so many creators are on the internet, where connecting with their readers is easier than ever before.

A fine example is Svetlana Chmakova, creator of both Dramacon and Nightschool, who is having a public Q&A session on her Live Journal page right this very minute! She's leaving it open to questions through Sunday, so if you want to ask a question about her inspirations, her creative process, or anything else, give it a go!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How to Read Comics

Reading comics is often frustrating for beginners. Even the smartest people can walk away from their first try a little confused.

Some people think they're too old or set in their ways to read comics correctly, but that's far from the truth. In fact, most people have years of practice already. Anyone who's ever looked at an instruction booklet or airplane safety brochure has had experience with a rudimentary form of comics.

By keeping the following tips in mind, anyone can transform their relationship with comics from "puzzling" to "pleasant."

Tip #1: Read the pictures.

Many newcomers to the format focus on the dialogue, jumping from word balloon to word balloon and only occasionally glancing at the pictures. While this may work for readers in a hurry, it's far from what the comic's creator intended.

Remember that this is a unique medium, and writers use it for a reason. Comics aren't simply novels with illustrations, just as movies aren't simply audiobooks with a slideshow.

To see how important images are to fully understanding comics, take a look at this panel:

Now compare it to this panel:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Read this: 10 Lessons For Better Colouring

Brian McLachlan, creator of the webcomics The Princess Planet and Smooth 'n' Natural, recently wrote a wonderfully extensive (and illustrated!) article on how to color comics.

Comics is sequential story telling and therefore its primary goal is not making the nicest picture – its about making the clearest picture to illustrate your story. Just like you don’t draw every hair on a persons head, every pore on their skin and every leaf on a tree, you need to make decisions about what colours you will and won’t include.

It's written primarily for comics creators, but readers (and someday-readers) should give it a look as well. Comics gain a whole new level of enjoyment when you understand exactly what an artist has done to make their work look beautiful.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Read this: Gay for You? Yaoi and Yuri Manga for GBLTQ Readers

Over at About.com, Deb Aoki provides a transcript of Gay for You? Yaoi and Yuri Manga for GBLTQ Readers, a discussion panel at this years New York Anime Fest:

Scott Robins: In just my reading of yaoi, I notice that there's a lot of high tension and desperation, and there's something really interesting about that. I don't think you see that in a lot of other romance comics. It's shown in an especially visual way in these stories; you see the tension in their faces and in their actions. I think that's what makes it appealing.

A bit of background: Yaoi and yuri are genres of manga focusing on male/male and female/female relationships, respectively. While both have their share of gay and lesbian fans, they're often created by and for straight people. It goes without saying that an outsider depicting same-sex relationships can end up as anything from inaccurate to offensive - hence the panel's focus on titles that, from a gay/lesbian perspective, get things mostly right.

Deb Aoki also took the time to post the panel's list of titles recommended for GBLTQ readers. Don't feel like you have to ignore the list if you're straight, though - good comics are good comics, no matter who they're written for.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Check this out: Guide for the writer-artist-letter

Waaay back in 1973, Charlton Comics (defunct since 1985, though some of its superhero characters have been adopted by DC Comics) published a guide for comics creators - sort of a "how to break into the industry" book. A hefty dose of scans were posted at the blog Hairy Green Eyeball II some time ago.

Some of the book's advice is out of date, like when creators are advised not to focus on their own stories, as "ideas come from within a company, either from the staff or regular free-lance contributors." (Admittedly, this is still true at big superhero and kid's comics publishers, but these days there are plenty of companies willing to back original stories.)

Either way, it's worth a look to see how comics were produced in the days before digital art programs and sizable indie publishers!

Monday, October 25, 2010

This looks interesting: Bunny Drop

Find the first volume at [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Description from the publisher (Yen Press):
Going home for his grandfather’s funeral, thirty-year-old bachelor Daikichi is floored to discover that the old man had an illegitimate child with a younger lover! The rest of his family is equally shocked and embarrassed by this surprise development, and not one of them wants anything to do with the silent little girl, Rin. In a fit of angry spontaneity, Daikichi decides to take her in himself! But will living with this overgrown teenager of a man help Rin come out of her shell? And hang on, won’t this turn of events spell doom for Daikichi’s love life?!

See what some reviewers have to say about this series:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Watch this: Perspectives on Work -Takehiko Inoue

Takehiko Inoue is, without exaggeration, one of the most influential manga creators of the past 20 years. His 1990-1998 shonen (manga for teen and preteen boys) series Slam Dunk has sold over 100 million copies in Japan and frequently tops public "best manga" polls there.

He's still creating manga today, as seen in this (blissfully subtitled!) television program following his work and creative process. Even if you have little interest in sports and samurai (his signature subject matter,) it's worth a watch just to see his incredibly detailed illustrations.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Interview with a Retailer: Austin Books and Comics

At last, an original interview! As fun as recommending comics and linking to articles is, there's something a little exciting about asking the questions yourself.

This (first?) interview is with Brandon of Austin Books and Comics, a (as may have guessed) comic shop in (as you may have guessed) Austin, Texas. Let's get to it!

HWC: First off, let's get to know the store a bit. What's your selection of comics like? How is everything organized?
ABC: We try to have as comprehensive a selection of comics as possible. Obviously there's the superhero mainstream comics, Dark Horse, Image, and the popular Vertigo line. But we also look to more indie comics publishers like Top Shelf, Oni Press, Slave Labor Graphics . . . and even smaller companies. It's our goal to have comics that will appeal to anyone who walks in the door.

We organize by genre. You'll find Humor titles in their own section, as well as Sci-Fi, Horror, Fantasy, True Life Fiction, Classic Comics, and of course Superhero. There's quite a few shelves that hold thousands of graphic novels and collections, alphabetized by title. Our Indie Comics alcove and Art Book sections are alphabetized by creator's name.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I Recommend: Uzumaki

Find the first volume at [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

We're well into October now, which for quite a few ladies means hunting down some Halloween reads! And few creators better represent comics with a spooky spirit than manga master Junji Ito.

One of the best examples of his work is Uzumaki, a series about a town haunted (if not outright terrorized) by spirals. "Spirals" may sound like a silly idea for a horror story menace, but between Ito's slow, eerie pacing and beautifully detailed artwork, this series can make even the most hardened cynic feel nervous around a snail shell.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Read this: Ladies Comics Project

See? I'm not the only one encouraging more women to read comics. Kelly Thompson (of the She Has No Head! column on Comics Should Be Good) has put together a neat experiment: The Ladies Comics Project, where she's gotten together over a dozen women, many of them not currently comics readers, and invited them to read an issue of a comic book and talk about their experience.

As Shelti, one of the women participating in the project, says:
Before reading this comic the only other comic I have read is The Walking Dead, which I really got into. My view of comics before I read The Walking Dead was that they were just cartoons and superhero stories. I never thought I would like them and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Walking Dead. I still am not sure if I would like the superhero ones as much as the “real life” ones (yeah yeah zombies aren’t real, I know).

One interesting (though not exactly surprising) thing I gleaned from Part 1: Ladies love a good cover image.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Read this: Let's Get Visual: Warm-Up Exercises

A discussion series of sorts started up at Soliloquy in Blue a while ago, where Michelle Smith and Melinda Beasi get together and analyze page layouts in manga. It's an interesting read for seasoned comics fans, but perhaps even more useful to people still learning how to read comics. Their insights are a great guide on how to interpret what's happening in a panel (or even what's suggested in the spaces between panels.)

There are two things in what you’ve said that really resonate with me. Firstly, I’m struck with the import of the door. I almost feel like I’m back in tenth grade, analyzing poetry, but now that you’ve mentioned its abrupt clarity, I’m convinced that there’s some pretty heavy symbolism behind that door being so conspicuously and firmly shut.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Quotes On Comics

Found a neat little site to use up minutes on: Quotes On Comics, which you can refresh to reveal oodles of quotes about comics - making them, reading them, explaining them, and so on.

Many of the quotes also have links that you can follow, to read them in-context.

Friday, September 17, 2010

This looks interesting: The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans

Find this graphic novel at [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Description from the publisher (NBM Publishing):
Nights of terror! A city awash in blood! New Orleans right after the First World War. The party returns to the Big Easy but someone looks to spoil it. Grocers are being murdered in the dead of night by someone grabbing their axe and hacking them right in their own cushy beds! The pattern for each murder is the same: a piece of the door is removed, the axe is borrowed on the property, and the assailant aims straight for the head! Why? How could he fit through that piece in the door? The man is never found for sure but speculations abound which Geary presents with his usual gusto!

See what some reviewers have to say about this graphic novel:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Read this: Shojo manga: navel-gazing edition

Recently in the manga-blogging scene, there's been a lot of back and forth about shojo manga (Japanese comics for teen and preteen girls.) Long recap short, it's sprung up a series of mini-debates about maturity, melodrama, and all the other issues of literary merit that follow teen girl entertainment around the world.

Melinda Beasi of Manga Bookshelf has written a great essay on what draws her to shojo, even as an adult.

Who am I? Who do I want to be? Whom can I trust? Does this person love me? These are all questions that still loom large in the life of this forty-something. When I cried for a half an hour after reading volume four of We Were There, it wasn’t because it reminded me of the pain of adolescence. It was because it reflected pain I was experiencing right then at the time. When I see Shugo Chara!‘s Amu struggling to reconcile the variations in all her would-be selves, it speaks to my ongoing career angst and the many decisions I have not yet made, even at my age.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Read this: Jen Wang's "Koko Be Good"

Shaun Manning talks to creator Jen Wang about her upcoming graphic novel, Koko Be Good:

I'd originally intended the book to be in black and white, but First Second publishes their books in color. If I wanted to work with them, that was a deal-breaker. I didn't want a hired colorist, I wanted to color it on my own, but if I did it digitally it would've taken me forever. So the compromise was to keep it essentially one color but have it painted so it would look more varied. I do a lot of watercolor painting, so it was a style I was comfortable with for 300 pages.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Yen Plus launches online (officially!)

YA lovers with a PayPal account, rejoice! Yen Plus, the anthology magazine discussed on this very blog some time ago, is officially open to subscriptions. $2.99 (and, depending, some tax) a month gives you access to the two most recent issues. And those issues aren't flimsy little things, either - each one clocks in at a couple hundred pages of comicky goodness.

The bulk of the magazine is manhwa (Korean comics) and adaptations of popular YA novels, like Gossip Girl and James Patterson's Daniel X. This issue brings us the online edition's first Japanese comics: Yotsuba&!, which you may remember me gushing over, and K-On!, a brand-new series about an all-girl high school rock band. (See those exclamation points? Even the titles of the comics are excited to be involved in all this.)

This online edition is a continuation of the Yen Plus print magazine, so several of the series are a dozen chapters or more in. Recap pages should help new readers ease into these ongoing stories. Yen Press also has collected volumes of each series, for those who just have to know what happened before.

Interested? Swing by the Yen Plus page and sign up! If it doesn't thrill you, you can cancel the subscription at any time.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Recommend: Runaways

Find the first volume at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes and Noble]

Parents. Most kids think theirs can be a little boring, clueless, or embarrassing. The teens in Runaways find out they have it a lot worse when they decide to sneak a peek at what they thought was a charity organization - and discover their parents are actually an evil, superpowered cult called the Pride.

So begins one of the most successful mainstream comics series of the past decade. That success isn't just a fluke. The lovable/love-to-hate-able characters and perfect blend of teen drama and comedy have drawn in some of the best writers in comics, including Joss Whedon, creator of the TV shows Firefly and Dollhouse (and a little supernatural series known as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) The artists are no lightweights either, with hilarious visual gags and utterly gorgeous chapter covers.

Later volumes tie in more closely with the main Marvel Comics universe, but don't worry if you're not well-versed in superhero history. The stories in Runaways stand well enough on their own for a reader to enjoy without studying up.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Read this: Hope Larson talks comics

Chris Arrant at Robot 6 talks to writer/artist Hope Larson about her upcoming projects, including a graphic novel adaptation of Madeline L'Engle's science fiction classic A Wrinkle In Time. (Pictured above is her design for the protagonist, Meg.)

One of the hardest things about doing graphic novels is having to sit on them for so long, absolutely. I wasn’t even allowed to say I was working on A Wrinkle in Time for months, and that was a miserable time! There I was, plugging away, working on this project every day, and to anyone else it seemed like I wasn’t doing anything. It’s probably the reason I’m so active on twitter. “Yes, hello, here I am, drawing comics! Writing comics! Please don’t forget about me!”

Monday, August 30, 2010

This looks interesting: Revolver

Find this graphic novel at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Description from the publisher (Vertigo):
REVOLVER is an original graphic novel by acclaimed writer/artist Matt Kindt (Super Spy, 3 Story: The Secret History of The Giant Man) that's a tale of two worlds — and how both test a man to his limits. Stuck in a dead-end job with a boss he can't stand and a materialistic girlfriend, Sam rises from a late night of barhopping to discover his whole world has changed. Literally.

An avian flu outbreak has killed millions, the nation's infrastructure has crashed and a dirty bomb has destroyed Seattle. Forced to go on the run, Sam awakes to a normal world the next day – and to chaos again the day after that. A single constant between the two worlds will undo all the damage, if he can find it – but that seems impossible. In one world, anything goes. In the other, he's out of danger and sleepwalking through life. So Sam's got an even bigger problem: Which world to choose?

See what some reviewers have to say about this graphic novel:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Read this: Oni Press' Roller Derby "Jam!"

Alex Dueben at Comic Book Resources interviews some of the creators involved in Jam!: Tales from the World of Roller Derby.

Monica Gallagher: My story is 100% autobiographical. It chronicles what happened when I decided I wanted to stop just watching and be a rollergirl. Well, I took a more casual, no-fault approach, I guess. I wanted to be a rollergirl, but since I didn't even know how to skate, I first decided to learn that part. If that worked, I'd go from there. [...] So, my story is about what happens when you're already an adult and discover a world you never noticed before that you have to become a part of, and along with that, decide you want to learn something so far outside of your comfort zone.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sequential Crush: Romance Comics Blogstravaganza!

One overlooked genre in comics is the classic romance magazine. Packed with dramatic (and often unabashedly girly) stories of young men and women in love - along with the occasional advice column and fashion spread - they sprang up in the 40s and 50s, with titles produced by just about every major player in the comics game.

Sadly, they disappeared by the turn of the 1980s, and modern reprints show up about as often as a comet made of unicorns. Less sadly, there are a number of blogs devoted to them. Sequential Crush just might be the best, with oodles of scans to admire. Most are from the 60s and 70s, which, as you can see from the cover above, is when the best artists really let loose with their illustrations.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Read this: Talking Comics with Tim: Megan Kelso

Tim O'Shea at Robot 6 talks to Megan Kelso about her newest graphic novel, Artichoke Tales:

I’ve always been drawn to silent passages in comics. [. . .] I have a fair amount to say as a cartoonist, and could never pull off an entirely silent comic that was any longer than 4 or so pages, because eventually, I want to SAY some shit, but I think silent passages in comics can be enormously effective, in allowing the reader to have their own thoughts and interpretation of events, and to serve as contrasts to especially talky passages.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Read Comics in Public Day

Now this is my kind of holiday! Brian Heater and Sarah Morean, the head honchos at The Daily Cross Hatch, have put forth a simple-but-brilliant idea: A day of the year encouraging people to read comics in public!

As Brian Heater puts it:
The concept is fairly simple: we’re asking that everyone take an hour or two out of their day on August 28th (also the birthday of Jack “King” Kirby, incidentally) to read a comic book in a public setting—a park bench, a beach, a bus, the front steps of your local library (we do ask, however, that you be mindful of local loitering laws). Let strangers see you reading a piece of sequential art.

Sounds like a good idea to me! If you've been waiting for the right time to start reading your first graphic novel or volume of manga, give Read Comics in Public day a go!

Monday, August 16, 2010

This Looks Interesting: Sorcerers & Secretaries

Find the first volume at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Description from the publisher (Tokyopop):

Nicole Hayes sure likes to daydream - and who can blame her? She studies a subject she has no interest in so she can satisfy her mother, and she works part time as a receptionist to satisfy her growing debt. But when she's alone with her notebook, she crafts a fantastic story and lets her imagination go-go-go! Meanwhile, her old neighbor Josh pines after Nicole's every step but just can't seem to snap her out of her daydreams and get her to notice him. If only he could see what it was she was dreaming about, maybe he could finally win her over!

See what some reviewers have to say about this series:

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Recommend: Death Note

Find the first volume at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

The American manga market, you may have noticed, is dramatically different from the American novel market. Aside from the obvious (manga have pictures, novels generally don't,) there's the matter of "classics." Novelists like Twain, Vonnegut, and Austen have been selling like hotcakes for ages. The manga market is a lot younger, and series fade in and out of vogue more quickly. Only a few titles from the early days are still in print, much less popular.

So when a manga series manages to stick on bestseller lists two years after the final volume's release, you know there's something good going on.

That goodness is Death Note, the story of a young man who finds a notebook. He discovers that anyone whose name is written in the notebook will die, and begins using it to pick off killers, crooks, and thieves - and anyone else who gets in his way. Tsugumi Ohba weaves together one heck of a psychological cat-and-mouse game, helped along by Takeshi Obata's gorgeous, insanely detailed illustrations.

It's all very Dexter, but with a lot less relationship drama and a lot more ink.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Why I'm doing this

Few things do a better job of illustrating why I'm so passionate about introducing people to comics than this news:

The Japanese publisher Shueisha is producing 3.2 million copies of the 59th volume of Eiichiro Oda's One Piece pirate manga - the latest volume in the series to set a manga record for the most copies in its first printing.

3.2 million copies. That's enough to give everyone in the state of Iowa their own copy, with plenty left over. To compare, the first print run for the first graphic novel adaptation of Twilight - one of the most anticipated adaptations of one of the best-selling novels of the decade - was 350,000 copies.

Granted, most manga in Japan aren't quite as popular as One Piece, but it still bums me out a little that a country with one-third of our population buys so many more comics than we do. Come on, American ladies! Let's show these publishers we mean business!

(British ladies, Canadian ladies, and ladies from other countries are welcome to join in too.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Read These: The Guardian's graphic medicine series

The Guardian (a British newspaper, for those unfamiliar) recently ran a series of articles by Cian O'Luanaigh, covering the ways comics and medicine have overlapped through the years.

Comics put patients in the picture
Fies uses the tools of comics to illustrate metaphors in a literal way. He drew his mother drowning in medical jargon, for example, and walking the tightrope that was balancing her medication. "In comics I'm able to apply these metaphors literally ... a unique application of a unique medium."

Osamu Tezuka: Father of manga and scourge of the medical establishment
Black Jack remains one of the most popular manga of all time in Japan. "I have never met a Japanese person who wasn't familiar with Black Jack, even those who don't usually read manga," said Palmer. "If Astro Boy is the Japanese Superman, Black Jack is the Japanese Batman. Everyone knows him, even far outside the comics world, and when people think of him people think of his fierce critique of the medical world."

Comic superhero Echo fights stereotypes of deaf people
"Most of the people who write or who are artists are hearing, and as a result, traditionally there have been other reasons to portray deaf people. So, for example, they are plot devices; they are catalysts; they are means of reflecting particular aspects or features of a hearing character; they move the plot along, but they're not developed in their own right."

They're all worth a read for those interested in this often-overlooked corner of comics.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Read this: An Interview with Moto Hagio

The treasures from Comic-Con are still trickling in! Here's an interview with Moto Hagio, one of the pioneering creators of shojo manga (those written for teen and preteen girls.)

When I first started working as a professional manga artist, a lot of my stories had people dying and other sad endings. My first editor at Kodansha tried to stop me from drawing such grim material. So I tried to make my stories more cheerful, but he still said, “Too dark!” Then Junya Yamamoto took a liking to my work. He let me draw whatever I wanted, even if it was too dark.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I Recommend: Yotsuba&!

Find the first volume at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Cute. Charming. Adorable. Fun. Sweet. Silly.

Words like these only begin to convey how good this series is at giving readers the warm fuzzies. Yotsuba doesn't spend her days fighting monsters or catching crooks or traveling across the universe (at least, not outside of her just-active-enough imagination.)

Instead she worms her way into the hearts of her neighbors with a cheery disposition. Kiyohiko Azuma is a master of comedic timing, and his simple style is perfect for drawing his young heroine's wide-eyed wonder.

Anyone who parents or works with young children - heck, anyone who's ever been a child - is bound to adore Yotsuba and her everyday antics.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Read this: A womanly chat with Vanessa Davis

Drawn & Quarterly is one of the top "indie" publishers in comics, bringing us work far outside the typical swords and superheroes fare. One of their upcoming graphic novels is Make Me A Woman by Vanessa Davis, the subject of this interview at Robot 6:

When I decided to start drawing comics, it was a challenge to know how to do it. It seemed like real cartoonists were much more polished, had a visual language that flowed out of them like speech. So for me, I felt like I needed to tighten up and get to that point. I was overwhelmed  by not knowing how to start, or what I wanted my comics to look like, so I decided to keep a sketchbook diary, where I could teach myself these things as I went along, make those decisions as they came up.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

This Looks Interesting: Market Day

Find this graphic novel at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Description from the publisher (Drawn and Quarterly):

An expectant father, Mendleman's life goes through an upheaval when he discovers he can no longer earn a living doing the work that defines him— making well-crafted rugs by hand. A proud artisan, he takes his donkey-drawn cart to the market only to be turned away when the distinctive shop he once sold to now only stocks cheaply manufactured merchandise. As the realities of the market place sink in, Mendleman unravels.

See what some reviewers have to say about this book:

Monday, July 26, 2010

The 2010 Eisner Awards

The Eisner Awards are, to borrow an award-show-comparing cliche, a bit like the Oscars of the comics industry. All the Eisner Awards are missing, really, is the nationally televised awards show. They get the next best thing, though: a ceremony held at San Diego Comic-Con.

The 2010 ceremony - the award's 22nd year - was held this weekend. Taking a look at the winners, as well as the nominees, is a good way to get a glimpse at some of the best comics of the past year.

Below is a selection of some of the winners. A full list can be found at the official Comic-Con International site.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Comic Magazine Yen Plus Goes Digital

In 2008, Yen Press (the comics imprint of Hatchette) began publishing an anthology magazine called Yen Plus. The magazine was cancelled several months ago, (this month's issue is the last to hit stores,) but with that news came an even more exciting announcement: Yen Plus is moving online!

The online launch started today, and as a special treat, the August issue is free. From September onwards, those who choose to subscribe will pay $2.99 a month for access to the two most recent issues.

Yen Plus is aimed at older teens, with adaptations of Young Adult novels like Maximum Ride and Gossip Girl alongside original series and Korean manhwa. Most of the comics are several chapters in, but this issue does have two new series and one short story, along with quick recaps for the ongoing series.

As the digital edition is still brand new, there are a couple of bugs, but for the most part it runs smoothly and loads quickly. Anyone who likes YA action and drama should give this sample issue a try.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Recommend: Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei

Find the first volume at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Seinfeld + Harold and Maude + Peanuts = Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei.

That's pretty much the only way I can describe the way this series feels. The protagonist doesn't just see the glass as half-empty, he's convinced someone else has spat in it out of spite. To make matters worse, he teaches a class full of losers, delinquents, and plain old freaks, including a girl who sees things as positively as he does negatively - so much that she's convinced people who hang themselves are just "trying to make themselves taller."

Much of the humor comes from Koji Kumeta riffing on Japanese culture. This could have been a disaster for American readers, but thankfully the translators at Del Rey pack the end of each volume with pages full of translation notes and cultural trivia, (something they do for many other series,) making Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei almost as informative as it is hilarious.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Read This: “Hey, so how’s that graphic novel coming?”

Novelist Sara Ryan is working on the script for her new graphic novel, and takes some time to share the ways writing comics is like and unlike writing novels.

The process is not simply about determining what happens to which characters, and how to transition between different parts of the story. It’s about how the reader will see it all play out on the page. Close on the characters, for nuances of expressions and body language? Tiny silhouettes against a complex and crowded background?

It's a neat look at the creative process, and shows how comics authors must learn to "write" with pictures, even if they aren't drawing the final art.

(And in other news, I adore the design of Sara Ryan's website. It's like all my favorite colors on one page!)

Friday, July 16, 2010

This Looks Interesting: Oishinbo

Find the first volume at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Description from the publisher (Viz Media):

To commemorate its 100th anniversary the heads of newspaper Tozai Shimbun come up with a plan to publish the “Ultimate Menu”. The assignment is given to journalist Yamaoka Shiro, the protagonist of the series. With the help of a female coworker, Kurita Yuko, Yamaoka starts off on what can only be termed an epic saga to find the dishes hat will go into the “Ultimate Menu”.

See what some reviewers have to say about this series:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Read this: Melinda Beasi Talks Japanese Comics

Osmosis Online has an interview with Melinda Beasi, who runs the review blog Manga Bookshelf. In it she talks about the titles that turned her into a fan, what it's like to be a manga critic, and even suggests a few titles for manga newbies.

OO: What was your first exposure to manga? What made you a true fan? And what ultimately made you a critic?
MB: It’s actually kind of hilarious that I ended up getting into manga, because just weeks before I became a fan, I’d made this big proclamation in my blog at the time about why I could never get into comics or animation. Then a friend finally convinced me to try a shonen manga called Hikaru no Go. I went crazy for it, and that was that. There was a sort of pure optimism regarding the nature of humanity permeating the entire story which really appealed to me at the time. It’s a quality I now associate with a specific genre of manga, but in the moment, I found it very refreshing. After that, I was hooked.

If you want some tips on good manga to start out with, or just want to learn about what it's like to be a book reviewer, be sure to give this interview a quick read.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I Recommend: Top 10

Find the first volume at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Alan Moore is, if not the biggest name in comics, at least worthy of some county fair-type prize ribbons. Several of his comics have been adapted into big-budget Hollywood movies, ranging from "pretty great" to "let's forget that ever happened." Watchmen, his grim and gritty superhero story that inspired hundreds of other grim and gritty superhero stories, has appeared on almost every Top 10 Graphic Novels list ever.

But today there's another Top 10 I'd like to focus on: the two-volume series written by Moore himself. (Okay, there have been a few spin-offs, but it's this first story I know well enough to recommend.)

And boy, do I recommend it. Moore starts with a premise ripe for fun - a city where every resident has superpowers - and ends up with an edge-of-your-seat police drama. The plot twists and turns like a roller coaster, with bright, beautiful art supplied by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon.

Even the backgrounds in Top 10 are a treat, with brief appearances by pop-culture icons like Astro Boy and the Yellow Submarine, as well as a look at what the escapist entertainment of superheroes might be like. Apparently, in a city full of robots and aliens and people who fly, the perfect wish-fulfillment role is Business Man.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Where to Get Comics

So maybe you've found a comic book, graphic novel, or manga series you'd like to read. Or maybe you'd like to surround yourself with comics and browse around. But where to go? Thankfully, there are plenty of options for comics shopping these days.

Comic Book Stores
If you live in or near a big city, chances are you're just a short drive away from a comic book store. The site ComicShopLocator.com can show you the stores closest to your ZIP code. Smaller shops tend to have a more limited selection, often focusing on superhero, sci-fi, and horror comics.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Recommend: Vampire Knight

Find the first volume at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Let me make one thing clear: Vampire Knight is not fine literature. It is a known fact of science that most copies of To Kill a Mockingbird would rather go through the shredder than be put on the same shelf as a volume of Vampire Knight.

But that's okay, because Vampire Knight doesn't try to be fine literature.

Instead, it tries - quite successfully, in my humble opinion - to embrace its sparkly, melodramatic, red-and-black-soaked madness. The heroine Yuki finds herself torn (occasionally almost literally torn, skin-wise) between handsome guys of varying vampire-tude, with every chapter delivering a new revelation about who's a vampire and who knows about who's being a vampire and who didn't tell who about who's being a vampire when they really probably should have.

Confusing, perhaps, but deliciously confusing.

If this reminds you of another "teen vampires in love" series, you probably already know how you're going to feel about this manga. Readers not immediately turned off by the idea of gorgeous young bloodsuckers should take a look at Viz's preview of the first chapter.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Watch this: Masters of Manga

Spanish manga translator Marc Bernabé has put together an incredible blog called Masters of Manga, following his journey to create a book about the history of manga. It's already chock full of profiles, interviews, and videos of manga artists at work, like this one of Shuho Sato drawing the protagonist of his series Say Hello to Black Jack.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Recommend: Y: The Last Man

Find the first volume at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

Imagine a world with no men. (It may not be that hard, depending on how your week's been going so far.) What might this all-woman world be like? Would the ladies of the world all come together to catch fireflies, make s'mores, and teach each other how to play the acoustic guitar?

According to Brian K. Vaughan, not so much.

Instead, his series Y: The Last Man goes with the gender-equalicious view that we women can post-apocalyptic a landscape just as well as the guys, thankyouverymuch. It focuses on the only two males to survive a mysterious event that killed all the other men: Houdini-wannabe Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand.

Yorick just wants to get in touch with his girlfriend on the other side of the world, but just about every woman he meets either wants to kill him, sell him, or use him to try and clone a new male population. Or a combination of those three.

With great characters, crisp art, and witty dialogue, Y: The Last Man is an amazing read. Let's just hope it never has to be an instruction manual.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Read this: Visual Language of Manga and Comics

Great article at The Hooded Utilitarian (itself a great blog) about the way page layouts differ between comics from opposite sides of the Pacific:

Usually when discussing the visual language differences between manga and comics, manga is discussed in terms of higgledy-piggledy shoujo panels, speedline overload, sweatdrops, and nosebleeds, and nobody pays attention to the way the art elements and speech balloons are structured to steer your gaze through the page, but I think this may be a more defining characteristic of manga than all the sweatdrops and nosebleeds in the world.

Comics appear to have a much less obvious push through the page, often relying on American readers’ style of reading left to right first, then, if needed, secondarily directing the reader’s gaze through the page by use of action lines and other cues in the art.

It's in-depth without bogging down the reader in detail, and could be a great resource for people who find themselves having trouble reading the layout of comics/manga, or readers who are good at one but struggle with the other.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Comics Glossary

Comics, like any other field of entertainment, does a pretty good job of confusing newcomers with jargon. This glossary can help you navigate blogs and comic-shop conversations with greater ease.

A work that tells a story or conveys information through the use of pictures, often in combination with dialog or written description.

The "box" around a picture in a comic. Each panel indicates a separate point in space or moment in time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reasons for Comics Non-Readership Among Women Survey - The Results

About a month ago, author/artist Hope Larson released the results of a survey she sent out to female comics readers. It ruffled some feathers and started some conversations, but most of all it got me thinking. What about a survey of women and girls who don't read comics?

So I put one together.

While it wasn't a 100% perfect success - more on that shortly - I still think my respondents came up with some interesting replies. And what better way to kick off a blog for non-comics-reading women than by examining them half to death?

I asked these ladies to answer a few questions about themselves, about comics, and why the two so rarely meet. Here's what they gave me.