Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Recommend: Magic Knight Rayearth

 Find the omnibus collection at: [Amazon] [Barnes & Noble]

To say the all-woman Japanese creative group CLAMP are giants in the comics world is to make a gross understatement. Producing professional work since the late 1980s, their 20+ series have sold nearly 100 million copies and many have received animated adaptations. (Compare this to the manga biz as a whole, where most artists are lucky to get just one hit series and adaptations are once-in-a-lifetime events for all but the biggest creators.)

Their first real megahit - and, less than coincidentally, a series that's recently gotten a fancy rerelease here in the States - is Magic Knight Rayearth. It starts off with a typical teen fantasy plot: three girls are transported into a magical realm, where they have been summoned to save a princess. From there, though, it takes off in its own direction, with the twists and turns CLAMP has become famous for.

It's a great introduction to their work - and fantasy manga in general - with beautifully detailed artwork and an epic story.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Viz launches online manga site!

A screenshot from Viz Manga's home page. Visible are Bakuman, a teen comedy/drama about comics-making; Solanin, a gritty coming-of-age drama; Black Bird, a creepy teen paranormal romance; and Blue Exorcist, a supernatural action series. Talk about variety!

This weekend was San Diego Comic-Con, the largest comics convention in the U.S. Just about every comics publisher made a big announcement or two. One of the most noteworthy for comics newbies came from Viz Media: A digital manga store!

The new site, Viz Manga, works much like Viz's iPhone and iPad apps but, well, without the need for an iPhone or iPad. Instead, select manga can be bought and read right on your computer! And the "select" really is select - Viz has launched the site with top-notch series, and odds are more will join them in the following months.

As a bonus, prices on the first book in each series are discounted as much as 40% off through July 31st, putting some volumes for as low as $2.99. Not bad for books that settle around 200 pages!

Best of all, the first chapter of every series is available for free! It's like having a tiny library right in your internet browser. Go take a look!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Read this: O'Malley, Takekuma, and Aihara mega-interview!

A photo of O'Malley and the cover of Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, complete with Scott Pilgrim-like labels, nabbed right from the interview page. Truly, I am shameless.

It's no secret that Bryan Lee O'Malley, creator of the romantic-action-rock-music-comedy graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim, has been influenced by Japanese comics. One early inspiration was Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, a parody how-to series by Kentaro Takekuma and Koji Aihara.

Recently, Comics Alliance - a great comics blog in general, by the way - hosted an interview between all three cartoonists. East-meets-West interviews are a rare treat, and this one makes a fine primer on the differences between comics cultures.

Here's a brief bit, where O'Malley discusses the split between "mainstream" and "independent" comics in America:

The whole history of comics in America has been about Marvel & DC superhero characters. New stories and ideas have been in underground or independent comics. I'm generalizing, but that's certainly how it feels to me. I never thought I could have success with my books to the point where I would sell a million copies and have a movie adaptation. It was astronomically unlikely. I would have expected to sell maybe 1000 copies.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Charlaine Harris plans original GN series!

Popular prose authors and the comics medium are hardly strangers these days - heck, this very blog has an adaptations tag - but this new project is something relatively unique: A novelist creating an all-original graphic novel series!

And what a novelist, too. Charlaine Harris is the creator of the Sookie Stackhouse series, inspiration for the TV show True Blood (which itself has been adapted into comics) along with series that are lesser-known but still beloved by their fans. Sookie Stackhouse is drawing towards a close - 13 books are planned in total - and next comes a brand new series, Cemetery Girl!

Harris originally planned for Cemetery Girl to be another novel series, but fellow author Christopher Golden encouraged her to give it a shot as a comic.

No artist has signed on to the project just yet, but so far Cemetery Girl is planned to be a three-book saga. Here's hoping readers who fell in love with Harris's other series will follow her into this new endeavor, and eventually comics at large!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gallery Time: Emma Vieceli

Promotional art for yet another upcoming project, The Avalon Chronicles.

Emma Vieceli is an artist from the United Kingdom (Cambridge, to be exact!) who has worked on multiple comics with European and North American publishers. Her best-known projects in the U.S. are the "Manga Shakespeare" books Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing, as well as the upcoming Vampire Academy graphic novel.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Win Volume 1 of A Bride's Story!

The cover to the manga you could win. Who wouldn't want a close-up view of that incredible art?

It's not too often that I link to contests and giveaways on HWC, but this was just too good an opportunity to pass up: Julie of Manga Maniac Cafe is giving away the first volume of Kaoru Mori's manga A Bride's Story!

Series description from the publisher, Yen Press:
Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori (Emma, Shirley) brings the nineteenth-century Silk Road to lavish life, chronicling the story of Amir Halgal, a young woman from a nomadic tribe betrothed to a twelve-year-old boy eight years her junior. Coping with cultural differences, blossoming feelings for her new husband, and expectations from both her adoptive and birth families, Amir strives to find her role as she settles into a new life and a new home in a society quick to define that role for her.

I haven't read A Bride's Story yet, but I'm eagerly awaiting the opportunity, and the reviews have been pretty positive.

Kaoru Mori is known for incredibly detailed artwork and laid-back storytelling. So if you're looking for an easy-on-the-eyes summer read, enter the giveaway and cross your fingers! (The giveaway is limited to U.S. residents only, but the entry form asks for no personal information beyond a name and contact e-mail.)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I Recommend: Pyongyang

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

North Korea is easily one of the most closed-off, secretive countries on the planet. Very few foreigners are allowed to visit, and photography is forbidden aside from select locations, rendering most outsider accounts of the nation text-only productions.

Guy Delisle's travelogue Pyongyang is a rare and worthwhile exception.

The book documents his two-month stay in North Korea's capitol as an animator, sent to oversee animation work outsourced there by a French studio. While his visit is as strictly chaperoned as any, the comics format allows him to peer through the cracks in the supposedly happy, healthy country, illustrating sights and events he would never be allowed to record with electronic devices. (Or, for that matter, non-electronic ones - the majority of the book was produced after his visit, from sketches and memory.)

Pyongyang shows the rest of the world just how strange and contradictory North Korea can be at times. It's a nation that both rejects the West and attempts to emulate it, where citizens claim to adore their government and yet spend half of every conversation glancing over their shoulders.

Guy Delisle has two other travelogues, one detailing his stay in China (titled Shenzhen) and another detailing his stay in Burma (titled The Burma Chronicles.) All three are excellent reads.