Links to reading and interaction!

*I wrote a story about bees!

*Comics reviews in the new Entertainment Weekly (#841). Predictably enough, the new Chris Ware collection from Pantheon titled simply The Acme Novelty Library gets an ‘A,’ which it probably deserves. I’m not sure how much new stuff is in there, but mainly the book collects the comics-format Acme Novelty Library #7 (from 1996) and #15 (from 2001), which provide the complete adventures of Rocket Sam (bleak, darkly humorous allegorical sci-fi) and Big Tex (brutally funny, poisonous slapstick), plus assorted Tales of Tomorrow (simplistic and sort of preachy, but gorgeously-designed) and something of an overture for the Rusty Brown project (brilliantly structured and paced examination of the distinct fates of a pair of fanboys; I can‘t wait to see how Pantheon and Ware presents it as part of a larger collection), which finally begins its official Direct Market serialization with the long-awaited Acme Novelty Library #16 this November (though early versions of its pages, like those of most Ware projects, have been running weekly in Chicago-area publications). Still, it’s close to thirty bucks for stuff I already own; I’m definitely planning to flip through it, though, and I ought to say that Fantagraphics’ Quimby the Mouse collection did a tremendous job of making its own collected material sing like never before.

An ‘A-’ goes to both Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner, and the upcoming collected edition of Damn Nation, Andrew Cosby and J. Alexander’s Dark Horse miniseries. Joe Casey and Tom Scioli’s Gødland gets a ‘B+.’ And while it’s not really comics-related, the same page features a longer review of the new Neil Gaiman prose novel, Anansi Boys, which gets a ‘B-’ despite what reads to me like a strongly positive review. Only at the very end does critic Jennifer Reese note that “It’s a giddy but somewhat unsatisfying ride. Whenever Gaiman runs into a narrative jam, he veers off in an exhilarating new direction, a diversionary tactic that starts to feel like a cheat. In his gravity-free fictional universe, nothing he has to say seems to carry any weight.” I expect a lot of authors wish their own narrative cheats could get away with being termed ‘exhilarating.’

*Comics Adaptation Dept: The Bone computer game is now available. Download the demo here, and if you like it you can have the full program unlocked for only $19.99. Note that this game only covers Out From Boneville; more will presumably follow if this chapter is a success.

I’ve played the demo; it’s extraordinarily simple and very very very short, literally ten to fifteen minutes of playtime (covering about half of issue #1 of the comic), just enough to show off the absolute basics of the game engine (the expected simplified adventure game clicking interface) and a single arcade-style minigame (a fitfully amusing if highly repetitive run and jump thing). Experienced adventure gamers will breeze through it in less time than it took to install, and I doubt the hardcore will find much to impress them.

Still, the project’s got younger kids and casual gamers in mind, so I can’t really blame it for being not much of a challenge (Telltale’s own site essentially admits that the game isn’t going to be much of a bear - it’s rated 2 out of 6 on a difficulty scale). The graphics are attractive, given the presumably limited budget the team had to work with and the price point they’re shooting for, and the dialogue had some fun, logical expansions on Jeff Smith’s original material, most of which makes its way into the action too. The voice acting is ok; Smiley should have been a little more antic, and Phoney not as much as he was. Anyone who’s actually played the whole thing, let me know how it goes; the casual word I’ve observed is heavily mixed, and longtime adventure game fans don’t seem to like it at all (granted, it’s not aimed at them, but I‘m hearing that the structure is quite slavishly faithful to the comics, which basically kills the exploration elements).

The same team had also recently acquired the rights to Steve Purcell’s Sam & Max, and are currently working on a brand-new game in the same chapter-based adventure style as Bone (note that despite the presence of several team members from LucasArts’ aborted Sam & Max: Freelance Police project, this will be an entirely new and separate game). That’s some pretty great news, and hopefully the series will provide a more experienced-gamer counterpoint to the ongoing Bone adventures; while an excellent comic, Sam & Max represents something special to adventure gamers of my age - it’s the exemplar of a golden age, one that’s now long past. Everyone who’s still interested in PC graphic adventuring will probably have their eye on this one until it comes out.

*Both Fanboy Rampage and Warren Ellis’ Bad Signal pointed this out already, but since the mighty ‘manga v. comics’ argument is now officially one of my pet distractions, I guess I’ll just link to this thread on The Engine, which explores (via hearsay) a certain Japanese reaction to OEL manga. It looks like Japanese comics editors are big on nation-specific categorization in their discussions. I personally have to wonder if the US comics penetration in Japan (or lack thereof) has a limiting effect on what Japanese readers and creators perceive as amecomi (as opposed to the presumably nation-neutral komikusu, though I’ve heard conflicting reports of ‘manga’ being used in Japan as a neutral visual language blanket term itself); I see the US comics scene as being fairly wide-open in terms of style and approach, and I have to wonder if Japanese commentators suffer from the same set of language-barrier cum availability blinders that certain English-language fans sport in reverse. I’m getting the feeling that for quite a few Japanese readers, amecomi might mean ‘muscular superhero art’ rather than ‘of US origin,’ but I could be wrong.

Hey! Maybe we can admit that Japanese comics folk are just as prone to utilizing conflicting and oft-convoluted definitions of key terms as us! Hee hee, that would be zany. Also: I fully support the immediate replacement of ‘OEL’ with ‘Nissei Comi,’ (or: ‘NC,’ just like ‘BD’) since it sounds much cooler and would act as a gleeful embracing/mutating of an arguably pejorative term to useful and positive purposes. But that’s just how I am.

The follow-up posts alluding to and/or denying a backlash in Japan against Korean pop culture are the most fascinating bits, in my opinion.