As always, you may skip down past the anime.

*Anime of Yore Dept: So, I think everyone that might possibly care has already seen this 1984 pilot short for what would eventually be called Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, an animated feature film adaptation of Winsor McCay's comics that every single person in the United States and Japan (plus Moebius) worked on in some capacity prior to its 1989 completion.

Among the early '80s pre-production crew were Hayao Miyazaki & Isao Takahata; they were still a few years off from founding Studio Ghibli, but the 1984 pilot certainly bears the stamp of Miyazaki's side of the group (although be aware that Miyazaki did not work specifically on the piece; it was directed by the late Yoshifumi Kondō, he of the 1995 Ghibli feature Whisper of the Heart).

But tell me, have you seen the 1987 pilot, directed by grand old man Osamu Dezaki, with frequent collaborators Akio Sugino (animation director) and Shichirô Kobayashi (art director)? The fellows behind such supple selections of the '80s cinema as Space Adventure Cobra and Golgo 13? I found it in the comments of this Cartoon Brew post, and I've gotta say - it's way more 'McCay' than the proto-Ghibli version, what with its towering designs and rich colors.

Granted, it also had the benefit of several additional years of pre-production; the premise and character 'takes' are pretty much as they'd appear in the final feature, complete with the modified Mr. Bunion (from a different McCay comic, A Pilgrim's Progress) and an all-new cute animal sidekick for Nemo. The animation isn't quite as assured as the 1984 piece, and it still doesn't really capture the perspective-shifting mania or the wonky personality of the comics... none of the animation attempts did, actually. But it's got some real charm, and reminds you that Dezaki may still have more in him than what'll be required by Ultraviolet: Code 044 (yes, based on the movie), his and Sugino's next television project...

Note that there was also a third pilot produced at some point, directed by Sadao Tsukioka (who was hired in the late '70s to train animators for the purposes of completing the feature - this thing goes way back), but damned if I can find it online. Plenty more info at this characteristically invaluable AniPages post.

*And also from Cartoon Brew: awesome climax to the 1963 Yugo Serikawa feature Wankapu Oji no Orochi Taiji (roughly, The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon), with assistant direction by the aforementioned Isao Takahata! That is a cool horse. Also: this.

*But enough with these moving pictures.




That Salty Air (Tim Sievert; Top Shelf, 112 pages, $10): This is a short, fable-like book, not unlike yesterday's Three Shadows in its images of inevitable death and mystical (if allegorical) coping, although it's a simpler work, and less assured. As fisherman Hugh rows across the waters bordering his home, declaring his love for undersea beasties and salty air alike, a mighty tentacled thing grabs a whale and drags it to its doom - bad shit coming for sure. Soon Hugh learns of his mother's death by drowning, and he hates, hates the water, throwing rocks at it and getting frenzied over his good lady wife's attempts to pay the rent with fishing; it'll take a holocaust of fishy friends and a magical/vengeful display of nature's power to snap him out of it. The wife's pregnant too... for even in death, there is life anew!

Sievert's got a nice sense of page construction, and his art is effective in contrasting lumpy human forms with the dips and curves of rocks & water, not to mention the craggy splendor of huge undersea creatures. But he's got a tendancy to emphasize emotions and symbols past the point of overwrought -- this is the kind of work where a line like "My mother is dead" is followed by a full page image of waves crashing against rocks -- and that doesn't help his lead character emerge as much more than a pawn of metaphor, his emotions shifting wildly to the dictates of the book's message. Still, this is the artist's first graphic novel, and the potential evidenced here makes me want to see what his second will look like.


Dominion: Conflict 1 [No More Noise] (Masamune Shirow; Dark Horse, 160 pages, $14.95): In the last few years I've been able to track down every one of Dark Horse's old trade paperback-sized Shirow collections except for this one, which gives you an idea of how long it's been out of print, and how relatively not-quite-as-popular it might have been during its 1996 pamphlet-format serialization, or upon its initial 1997 compilation. Hell, the comic itself is basically a mid-'90s redo of a series Shirow conceived back in 1985, plastered with extra catgirl and chibi antics, then abandoned after its first storyline was finished.

But truthfully, quietly, this is Shirow's best comic, and I'm glad Dark Horse has it back in print, even if the shrunken size doesn't do it many favors. This was the last book the artist completed before dolloping computer images all over everything (unless you count the small stories that eventually formed Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor), and he's at his most luxuriously dense and richly shaded. Yet, there's also an underlying lightness to his more-exaggerated-than-usual character art, responsive to the book's comedy-heavy premise of futuristic police officers that battle crime with small tanks during the Christmas holiday season; a day-in-the-life type of deal, stuffed with bureaucratic troubles and office crushes and a handful of tiny subplots that serve little purpose other than to fill in color and make you smile.

God help us, he's good at it. Based on this stuff, I would pay top dollar for an entire Masamune Shirow graphic novel filled with absolutely nothing but homey interactions in a cluttered future world, details and gags and digressions rampant, little relationships progressing incrementally as time creeps by. It's almost a shame when the jargon-heavy action starts, but even then Shirow keeps it gratifyingly sleek and character-centered; I didn't even need to take notes to follow the mystery on my first read! I know the man's all but retired from manga, his money coming in from pin-up art and mad ideas for serious anime, often based on his own, older comics, but man... I think I can go for a certain type of revival.


Magic Hour #1-2; Magic Hour Sketchbook (Alex Holden; minicomics, 16-40 pages, $3ish): A trio of minicomics centering on a gaggle of urban kids and their encounters with mythic creatures while spraying paint or hanging around and stuff. Some decent, feathery art, and a keen grasp of transforming common youth concerns into literally the stuff of monsters, although I liked the more mundane city vignettes of the sketchbook a little better, where Holden's pages open up to make their tighter length constraints read more vividly. Worth following that link to see if it'd be up your alley.


Holmes (Omaha Perez; AiT/Planet Lar, 104 pages, $12.95): The high concept of this one, collecting Perez's self-published pamphlet miniseries, is that the famous detective is totally off his fucking face on mind-altering stuff for most of his waking time, a comedic exaggeration of habits present in the Doyle originals. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is cited more than once, but there's no revelations about the state of society in store for Holmes and Watson; rather, Perez depicts the Baker Street original as a tactless beneficiary of a powerful brother, and a friend that's never so annoyed with him that he stops scrubbing the historical record clean. He's got a faint stink of legend about him, so all the city's his playground to solve cases through intimidation while chasing his possibly-imaginary Moriarty.

It's a fair subtext, but Perez doesn't tune his story to do much with it, or even explore thing beyond the level of suggestion. As such, the book functions primarily as a one-joke comedy, and it fully wears out its welcome over its brief page count. In a candorful afterword Perez notes that his goal for the book's art was for it all to be "passable," a state he's not sure he attained; I'd say the storytelling was pretty clear and some of the images were funny (when in doubt, give a beloved literary figure a huge floppy penis), although I don't know if anything in here will attract anyone not already tickled by the premise. Could be diverting to some.