I heard this stuff makes you a scholar, or at least a skald.

*It's tough getting the pep back in your step.


The Winter Men Winter Special


Netflix Black Notebook #2 (starring Twentynine Palms and Kai Doh Maru - French arthouse crypto-porn and CGI anime, together at last)

*Manga News of Paramount Import Dept: Ok, ok, hang on - we'll be getting to the usual feature in just a minute. But I've got a little comics news I need to report right now. Something that touches all of our lives. Something great.

That's right. Your command of Japanese hasn't betrayed you, dear reader - it's a new comic by Kazuo Koike & Ryoichi Ikegami, the gents who brought us the searing and immortal likes of Offered and Crying Freeman. Moreover, it's a side-story to Koike's & Kazuo Kamimura's 1972-73 Lady Snowblood (the exact title is Shura Yukihime Gaiden which translates roughly to Lady Snowblood Side-Story), which gives me the dizzy (if unfounded and probably absurd) fantasy that the book might wind up being Koike's 'answer' to Kill Bill, which was partly inspired by the 1973 Lady Snowblood movie, writted by Koike and directed by Toshiya Fujita.

The mind reels! It's due in Japanese stores on January 28! How is this not the top story on Newsarama?! Nothing is more important than this! I sure hope the Koike BFFs at Dark Horse are prepared to do the right thing with this one - fortune favors the bold!

God, the English-reading world could use more Ikegami in general. You'd swear the guy had retired or something from the way nobody talks about him these days. C'mon - he's Japan's biggest Neal Adams devotee! He fucking inspired Cromartie High School!! Did you not believe he'd be drawing comics until the very moment of death's embrace? Look at this:

That's what manga needs to thrive in these uncertain times. HEAT. Smutty gangster comics set among the host clubs of Shinjuku, aimed at 40-year old men (or 40-year old men at heart). This one's written by Buronson, aka: Sho Fumimura, who's worked with Ikegami nonstop since 1990, although you'd swear he dropped off the face of the planet after once upon a time well-regarded Sanctuary. Few even remember Strain, the duo's 1997-98 follow-up, presented in English in the pages of the late, lamented Pulp. They followed that one up with 17 goddamned volumes of Heat, and they're currently up to vol. 14 of some historical adventure thing titled Supremacy Lord.

I mean, sure... in the abstract, I know why none of these hard-boiled comics are the sort of thing publishers rush to discover for us all today. They're long series, aimed at older readers, totally out of style. It's funny - Ikegami first became popular in North America because his style was so odd and apart from the manga norm, so western in influence, and therefore more liable for readers to snuggle up to. It's a strength no more, but I say we still need it; comics can use an exploitation angle, full of quick, vivid thrills for adult readers, tip-top nonsense, and Ikegami is the type that can bring it. Every time.

AND ANOTHER THING! How about this?

Spidey's flower died because his manga isn't in print.

Ikegami did this one with writers Kōsei Ono & Kazumasa Hirai way back in 1970-71, shortly after the artist's stuff appeared in Garo. Marvel did a partial, edited-for-content translation in the pamphlet format in 1997-99, but it didn't do justice to how profoundly fucking weird this comic was, a kids' thing entirely about gnawing personal guilt and student riot era socio-political strife, dour to the point of unintentional comedy, and sometimes astonishingly violent and sexual. I totally understand why Marvel might not want an unexpurgated release floating around, but that just makes me want it more. It's a piece of real, mad history, and only five volumes - cradle it in shrink wrap, slap a MAX sticker on top and show us what's up, House of Ideas.

And if anyone ever runs across Koike's infamous, loathed '70s Hulk manga -- maybe digging up a landfill somewhere -- give me a buzz. I'm always up for that.

*Fair warning - I'm putting today's feature together while sampling from a bottle of mead I bought at the Pennsylvania Farm Show last weekend, because I want to get older than old school today. This is how Pliny the Elder blogged about upcoming comic books. And I'd say this drink was the second most wonderful thing at the show, the most wonderful being a venison summer sausage molded into the shape of a football, so you can toss it around and shout "This used to be animals! All of it!"


Tales from Outer Suburbia: Being the new book from Shaun Tan of The Arrival; it's a 96-page collection of 15 short illustrated stories, with a daffy, satirical tone at the fore of its peek into everyday life. Featuring: "a visit from a nut-sized foreign exchange student, a sea creature on someone’s front lawn, a new room discovered in a family home, a sinister machine installed in a park, a wise buffalo that lives in a vacant lot... how ordinary people react to these incidents, and how their significance is discovered, ignored or simply misunderstood." Admirers of the universality-through-invented-iconography of Tan's prior work will likely be interested. Extensive preview here; lengthy artist's commentary here. From Arthur A. Levine (thanks to Sandy for the correction on the US publisher), $19.99.

Steve Ditko: Edge of Genius: He's still on the edge because this $25.00 Pure Imagination softcover production reprints some of his earliest works, 160 pages culled from the first three years of Ditko. Expect the format to be more or less the same as the publisher's The Steve Ditko Reader reprint series, if you're familiar. Samples here.

The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore: Indispensable Edition: I enjoyed the initial 2003 release of this George Khoury-headed tome, which is mostly a very-long, career-spanning interview with the Magus, sprinkled with various rare works (like a recolored version of the classic, Donald Simpson-illustrated In Pictopia!) and tribute strips from the likes of Dave Gibbons, David Lloyd, Rick Veitch, Neil Gaiman & Mark Buckingham, Brian Bolland and most of the ABC artists of the time. This new, expanded edition promises added interview content through the present day, plus added arcana like Moore's story with Michael T. Gilbert from 1985's Mr. Monster #3 (I have a bunch of those old Mr. Monsters, enough to hit the letters pages pertaining to that particular issue; the most fun is reading folks discuss Moore before he was ALAN MOORE, as this overhyped or worthwhile young cat who maybe knows what he's doing, but he's not like the great ones of genre comics yet!). From TwoMorrows, $29.95 for 240 b&w and color pages. A big chunk of the prior edition is on Google Books, if you're interested.

Daredevil: Born Again: In that every week apparently must bring another Frank Miller reprint, here's a new $24.99 premiere hardcover for probably his most famous storyline, aided and abetted by the great David Mazzucchelli. See Daredevil lose, and then win! There's also a guy with an American Flag tattooed right on his face.

The Myth of 8-Opus: The Doomed Battalion: Also in reprints, here's a new, $19.99 edition of Gødland artist Thomas Scioli's 2003 outing for his solo Kirby-inspired cosmic adventure series. A 110-page b&w softcover.

Bone Color Edition Vol. 9 (of 9): Crown of Horns: But probably the most popular reprint series of them all (at least concerning contemporary comics) is around this week too, polishing off a newly radiant Scholastic release of Jeff Smith's much-loved fantasy series. This was a full-blown economic second life for the title, and I suspect everyone involved is really happy with how it turned out. Your $19.99 or $9.99 will get you the hard or softcover edition of your choice.

MOME Vol. 7 Thru 10 Pack: But why reprint anything when you can pack 'em up? Jeez, $44.85 is a nice price for four editions of the Fantagraphics house anthology, which'll cover the whole of Jim Woodring's The Lute String and the last 2/3rds of Lewis Trondheim's retirement-from-comics rumination At Loose Ends (with an invaluable glossary of names by Kim Thompson), and various standout short works from the likes of Tom Kaczynski, Dash Shaw, Eleanor Davis, Al Columbia and more. I reviewed them all.

Punisher: War Zone #5 (of 6): Ennis & Dillon.

Captain Britain and MI: 13 #9: Concluding the Mindless Ones storyline.

Amazing Spider-Man #583: If this was the Ikegami Spider-Man, he'd just glower at our President-elect, unable to speak, while thinking about domestic struggles. Then someone would steal his identity and knock out a policeman's eyes, and society would decay. Petals, falling.

B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #1 (of 5): Kicking off another Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis affair, now with Kevin Nowlan on full cover duties. Note that this storyline is the second part of a trilogy that'll have some effect on the series' makeup, or so they say. Hey, did you know Davis' old Métal Hurlant serial with Jerry Frissen, The Zombies That Ate the World (Les zombies qui ont mangé le monde), didn't actually end? Like, it's still been coming out in album format in France, and it's up to vol. 4? That's another thing we should probably have in English.

Army@Love: The Art of War #6 (of 6): And as one begins, another ends. We'll all look back on this and puzzle over how we got 18 issues of Rick Veitch comics (inked by Gary Erskine) in such short order, but for now you'll just have to enjoy this ending-for-the-foreseeable-future to his war satire from Vertigo.

Final Crisis #6 (of 7): Still final after all these months, with the added 'bonus' of getting to wrap up writer Grant Morrison's Batman run. Looks like it'll outpace Final Crisis: Superman Beyond too, which is about par for the course by now - according to Douglas Wolk, a grand total of one Final Crisis-related issue or tie-in has shipped on time since mid-September. Still, DC seems intent on finishing this sucker off before the month of love; next week sees the conclusion of the Superman side-story, while the week after is reserved for the final issues of Final Crisis: Revelations and the miniseries proper (which, you'll remember, will have full-blown fill-in art by Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy). I think everyone involved is wishing they had a machine that can turn thoughts into items by now...