Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Read this: A Timeline of Josei Manga in the U.S.

Erica Sakurazawa's Between the Sheets, one of the josei manga mentioned in the recent write-up.

Josei manga - Japanese comics written for adult women - are something of an underdeveloped category in the States, especially compared to shojo (for teen/preteen girls) and shonen/seinen (for boys and men, respectively.)

Still, the amount of josei that's reached our shores over the years is plenty enough for Johanna Draper Carlson of Manga Worth Reading to compile a handy history listing the demographic's most notable titles, publishers, and pieces of discussion.

Alas, many of the manga mentioned are currently out of print, and may be hard to track down - but most books towards the end of the timeline are fairly easy to find, and even the older ones pop up now and then. If you have a good used bookstore in your area, pay them a visit and see what josei manga they have for you to try!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Comics for charity: Comics Express for Joplin, Missouri

Image by Comics Express contributors Alec Longstreth (illustration) and Caitlin Keegan (lettering.)

Every so often, the comics-making community comes together to help those in need. One recent example is the Comics Express project, where creators like Dave Roman Raina Telgemeier, and Jennifer & Matthew Holm (and many others!) have come together to make a free, kid-friendly comic book to hand out to children affected by the recent tornado in Joplin, Missouri.

They've raised enough money to cover printing and shipping costs, but you can still donate money to go towards the Joplin Public Schools' Adopt-A-Classroom Fund to buy new school supplies.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How to Read Manga

"Why is it backwards?"

Many ask this question when they first see manga. (The answer is that Japanese reads from right-to-left, whereas English reads left-to-right. It's not "backwards," just "opposite"!) Translated manga used to be "flipped" to read Western-style - and a few still are - but most creators prefer their artwork to be presented as it was originally drawn, so flipping is rare nowadays.

So what's a reader to do when presented with this unusual page layout? Sit back and learn! This post will take you step-by-step through the process of reading a right-to-left comic. By the time you're through, you can pick up any manga and read it like a pro!

Note: If you're new to comics in general, please take a look at the How to Read Comics guide. Japanese and Western comics share the same basic storytelling elements, so understanding one will enhance your enjoyment of the other!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I Recommend: Fables

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

Readers these days are no strangers to "fractured fairytale" novels, where childhood stories are re-imagined in strange new ways. The genre has made its way into comics, too, with Fables being the best-known (and in my opinion plain ol' best) example.

In Fables these classic characters - from Snow White to the Big Bad Wolf - have been driven out of their mythical homelands by a mysterious figure known as The Adversary. The monsters and talking animals live in a hidden farm, while the humans (or those who can fake a human appearance well enough) form a community in New York City. From there, each story arc takes readers on a different adventure - from murder mystery to political thriller - with these displaced fantasy figures.

Of course, comic book series don't get over 100 chapters, multiple spin-offs, and a small army of on-again-off-again TV adaptation deals without being pretty darn good. And Fables is fantastically good. Writer Bill Willingham weaves one thrilling tale after another, with dashes of humor and tidbits sure to thrill any folklore enthusiast. The art, likewise - usually done by Mark Buckingham - fits perfectly, resembling classic fairy tale illustrations.

Some consider Fables to be a bit obvious as a new-to-comics recommendation, and . . . they're exactly right. It may be cliche, but for fans of fantasy (urban and otherwise) Fables is just right.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

DC relaunch update!

It's been bout 2 weeks since DC Comics announced the massive restructuring and relaunching of their main comic book series. Many more details have come out, and superhero-loving bloggers have compiled the cover art and series descriptions into handy posts like this one. Some info that may be interesting to HWC readers:

- DC being DC, the superhero genre dominates. A few titles seem to blend superheroes with the war, western, and horror genres, though, so even if caped crusaders aren't your favorite there may still be something you'll enjoy.

- This relaunch was definitely made with new readers in mind. The first issue descriptions mostly sound like introductions, so readers unfamiliar with certain teams or characters can expect to get the basic information necessary to dive into later storylines.

- A few questionable costume changes aside - this cover featuring Harley Quinn has gotten some criticism - DC seems to have gotten the message that readers like their superheroines in costumes that are both sexy and practical for crimefighting. (Well, as practical as brightly-colored wetsuits ever get.) The vast majority of covers featuring women focus on kicking ass, rather than, um, showing ass.

Time will tell how well these new-reader-friendly features will stick, but at least for the time being it sounds like DC really is set on inviting a new audience to its superhero universe.

Speaking of which, check behind the cut for a list of the titles I'm most psyched about!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Read this: Life of a (Rookie) Editor

Daniella Orihuela-Gruber is a freelance editor. She was a manga editor at Tokyopop for some time, but with the publishing arm of that company's recent closure she has had to find new, often non-comics editing jobs. Such was the inspiration for her recent post at her blog All About Manga, where she discusses the similarities and differences between various types of editing:

Editing manga is so much more than copy-editing. You have to watch the artwork as well as the grammar, plus you have to worry about how things sound to a reader because of the translation that takes place. While this “ease” of reading is something any editor usually has to look for when reading over any kind publication, it’s especially important and difficult when working on manga.

It's an interesting insight into a side of comics-making that, while not quite as romanticized as drawing or writing, is essential for giving the reader the best possible experience.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Recommend: Oh My Goddess

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

Personal history time: Aside from a handful of Pokemon comics, Oh My Goddess was the first manga I ever read. There's no telling if it was this series in particular that inspired me to fall in love with Japanese comics, but it certainly didn't hurt.

Oh My Goddess follows Keiichi, a down-on-his-luck college kid, who one day accidentally calls the Goddess Technical Help Line. They send a goddess named Belldandy, who informs Keiichi that she can grant any wish he wants. Suspecting his friends are pulling a prank, he says he wishes for Belldandy to stay with him forever. He soon learns that it's not a prank - Belldandy really is a goddess, and now the universe will do anything it can to keep them together!

Oh My Goddess is the longest-running manga in America, published here continuously from 1994 to today. It's no wonder why it's been a hit for so long: Kosuke Fujishima's art is beautiful (though the first few chapters definitely show their age) and the plot grows right along with the characters, weaving a technological take on Norse mythology in with the romantic comedy mishaps.

Being a romantic comedy originally aimed at men, there is the occasional focus on chests (or backs, or legs, or . . .) but these are always drawn with care - more classic pin-up than modern sleaze mag.