Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Recommend: Wandering Son

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

Let this be clear: Wandering Son is possibly the best story about transgender characters I've experienced in any medium, period. (Granted, I haven't seen/read that many.) It's about two fifth-graders, Shuichi and Yohsino as they begin to come to terms with, and practice, their preferred identities. Shuichi delights in performing a female role in the class play, Yoshino revels in uniform-clad anonymity on the opposite side of town, etc.

Creator Shimura Takako really puts the "slice" in "slice of life," delivering the story one little vignette at a time. It makes the transitions feel a bit jumpy at times - it can be hard to tell if two scenes are supposed to be one class period or a whole day apart, for example - but ultimately benefits the pacing. Takako delivers layer after layer of emotional punches, builds up to a major heartbreaking (or heartwarming) blow, and begins the process all over again. Her artwork fits perfectly as well, with characters drawn sweetly enough to show off their innocence without getting overly "cute."

As a special feature, the English version by Fantagraphics includes a short essay on the use of honorifics in the Japanese language. While honorifics are largely incidental in most manga, their relationship with status and gender give Wandering Son yet another sheet of emotional substance.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

So what are webcomics?

Welcome to the final installment of the So What Are...? series. We finish off with one of the newest comics formats: webcomics! (To read previous articles in this series, check the tag.)

So what are webcomics?
Webcomics, as you may have guessed, are comics . . . on the web! Webcomics are posted directly onto the internet, usually with no previous form of publication. They've been around about as long as the internet itself, with the earliest comics debuting in the mid-1980s, but really started taking off in the late 1990s. Today there are countless webcomics out there. (Seriously, any attempt to count them all would take ages.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

So what are manga?

Part four of our five-part series on comics and comics formats is here! Previous parts can be found in the so what are...? tag. Today's topic: manga!

So what are manga?
Manga are, quite simply, comics from Japan. (In Western usage, at least - in Japan it simply means comics in general, homegrown and foreign ones alike.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

So what are graphic novels?

This is part three of a five-part series about comics and several comics formats. For previous installments, check out the so what are...? tag! Today, we'll discuss graphic novels.

So what are graphic novels?
Graphic novels are, bluntly put, "comics with a spine." (That's a book-style spine, not the body part - ew!) There are two types of graphic novel:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

So what are comic books?

Welcome to the second in a five-part series discussing the medium of comics and several of its formats. (For other parts in the series, check the so what are...? tag.) Today we'll be discussing comic books!

So what are comic books?
Well, for one thing, they'd probably be more accurately named "comic magazines", but the word "books" stuck so there you go. Comic books are published on a regular basis - typically monthly - in issues of roughly 20-30 pages each.

A single issue of a comic book is roughly equivalent to a single episode of a TV show - depending on the series, it can either be its own mini-story or a small piece of a larger narrative.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

So what are comics?

Welcome to the first of a five-part series! Inspired by the apparent format confusion I noticed in 2011's Non-Reader Survey, the So What Are...? series aims to explain the basics of comics and several of their formats. Today's article:

So what are comics?

Comics, like any other medium, are tricky to define. Scott McCloud - a comics creator and theorist - came up with the following definition in his book Understanding Comics:

Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.

I've come up with my own similar, yet simpler (some could argue more imprecise) definition: