Different peeks at classics.

*UPDATE (7/31/05 1:23 AM): Nice little article on Naoki Urasawa's Pluto from the English-language version of The Asahi Shimbun, which insists that it's Japan's leading national newspaper so who are we to argue? Plenty of quotes from Urasawa on his thinking behind the story, a bit of biographical stuff, info on Pluto's popularity in Japan, and even some comparison of the character remake dynamic with US superhero comics, an observation made in my own review. Did I mention that Chapters 20 and 21 are now out? Because they are; time to feel the burn of monthly cliffhangers, just like Urasawa's Japanese readers! (Found at Pata's lovely manga site, Irresponsible Pictures)

*Definition of the Day Dept:

Pleasure -

(1.) The state or feeling of being pleased or gratified.

(2.) A source of enjoyment or delight.

(3.) Amusement, diversion, or worldly enjoyment.

(4.) Sensual gratification or indulgence.

(5.) One's preference or wish.

(6.) The finding of a lost cache of back issues of Viz’s late, lamented manga magazine Pulp for one dollar per book. Sure, the snippets and random chapters of ongoing serials don’t make a lick of sense on their own, and I already own some of it in collected form anyway, but, to evoke the hoariest cliché possible, I’m reading it for the articles right now. The final issue, Vol. 6 No. 8, from August of 2002, features a lengthy multi-writer slash ‘n burn essay extravaganza titled “Manga Hell!!” which covers all of the sinful things the manga world can offer, including the worst of translated and untranslated work, tales of unscrupulous publishers, coverage of Osamu Tezuka’s sex satire Rally Up Mankind! (which desperately needs to be out in the US), and a tribute to gekiga writer extraordinaire Kazuo Koike, once a government bureaucrat by day, professional mahjong player by night, now best known for his disreputable cheeseball collaborations with Ryoichi Ikegami (Crying Freeman, Wounded Man) and his far more acclaimed work with Goseki Kojima (Lone Wolf and Cub, Samurai Executioner), though his scripts have graced everything from Golgo 13 (where, as Dan Coyle pointed out on this site, Koike got his uncredited start) to a Go Nagi epic titled Hanappe Bazooka involving a young fellow with a cosmic-powered penis for an index finger. If you ever find old issues of Pulp, you ought to buy them, as there’s a wealth of now-lost information within.

Gødland #1

Well, this is something. It’s a new creator-owned ongoing series by veteran writer Joe Casey (of The Intimates fame) and artist Tom Scioli. And it’s basically an attempt to create a modern-day Jack Kirby comic, complete with Kirby-style art and a loose, space-faring plot and tons of fighting. Everyone’s emotions are worn on their sleeves, and weird, wild action is the point of it all.

And, given that, it’s a good book. Keep in mind that (blasphemy!) I’m not nearly as versed in The King’s sweeping career as I ought to be, and I’m certain that there’s a lot of tiny crumbs of homage and tribute that I’m totally missing, but as a breezy fight book it’s perfectly ok. The key is probably Scioli’s art; despite adopting a positively slavish Kirby style for the ongoing action, Scioli resists coating his visuals in the amber of perfect simulation, bringing some good energy and movement to the story. Scioli was previously responsible for Image’s game-based Freedom Force and a self-published Kirby-style book titled The Myth of 8-Opus, which won a 1999 Xeric Grant and prompted some (shall we say) diverse reactions. His tight, exacting style sometimes encompasses so many familiar Kirby tropes at once, it seems almost 'hyper-Kirby,' multiple Kirbys at once, just like a certain scene in the book itself wherein the protagonist, bold astronaut Adam Archer, is confronted with dozens of mirror replications of himself in a secret cave on Mars; each replica infuses him with energy, granting him amazing cosmic powers - take whatever metaphor you please out of that.

Casey has stated in his weekly column with Matt Fraction (which also sports some nice art samples) that the book is even being produced in the classic Marvel style, with Casey providing Scioli with a (mostly) page-by-page plot breakdown, Scioli then determining all of the page layouts and panel positioning on his own, and finally Casey plugging dialogue directly into Scioli’s finished art. While not the most nuance-inclined means of creating sequential tales, it’s probably fine for a loopy cosmic fight book of this type, though Casey seems to be uncertain as to what note to strike with his script. There’s elements of direct parody, like the Stan Lee-type opening captions (unfortunately, the book arrives hot on the heels of a similar and more successful Lee/Kirby tribute experiment in Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart’s Guardian). There’s bits of starry-eyed Silver Age wonderment, like a long monologue delivered by Archer whilst wandering the blighted terrain of Mars and uncovering its secrets (excellent candied coloring by Bill Crabtree, by the way). There’s some fairly flat ‘modern’ jokes, like a random villainess’ addiction to cable news, or Archer halting his fight dialogue to wonder why he’s bothering to talk in a heated battle. Indeed, like the art, Casey appears to be attempting every sort of tone a writer can manage when working with Kirby-style art in 2005, but this time the effect is scattered, like Casey just can’t yet figure out how to present the book.

Ultimately, though, the book is about largely brains-free fighting, the story flashing back and forth from Archer’s origins to a battle with a Lockjaw-type space canine. We sometimes cut away to seemingly unrelated heroes and villains, clashing in medias res, and a stock personality supporting cast hovers on the sidelines. But yeah, punching and Krackle and space things, all the way.

It’s intended as a long series; Casey says he’s already working on issue #8. I have to wonder how long the book can sustain itself, and where it will go. Casey’s books are usually slow-starters for me, though this one is fleet on its kisser-socking terms, and they tend to develop into other things over time. Whatever this book develops into, it at least has the attractive violence thing down, turning back to an earlier age, like several books currently on the stands, but its gaze more fiercely focused on a particular point than is sometimes found.