Beauty secrets for men, in this post.

*So, I'm going down to SPX on Saturday with Chris Mautner of Blog@Newsarama, and naturally I want to try and sort out what's going on at the show, and pick out my loveliest gown and everything, and I just realized there's a lot of stuff going on. Like, I can probably spend most of the day just sitting around and watching panels and stuff. It's a good lineup. The full schedule is here, but this is how it might look for me:

12:00: Kim Deitch - a talk on many Deitch-related topics

1:00: C(hris).F(orgues). Q+A - Dan Nadel asks the Powr Mastrs creator things, and others ask him things too

2:30: The Generic and the Particular - Tim Hodler moderates a panel on 'genre' comics with Gilbert Hernandez, Jon Lewis (of True Swamp), Frank Santoro (of Cold Heat), and Matt Wagner

4:30: The State of Comics Criticism - Bill Kartalopoulos moderates a comics criticism panel populated by editors of/contributers to The Comics Journal (Gary Groth), Comics Comics (Dan Nadel, Tim Hodler), and The Savage Critics (Douglas Wolk), so you know it's got my seal of approval, which is what everyone everywhere desires most

I don't know if I'll actually go to all those events. That last one's pretty much a lock, though. Maybe I'll see you there, after having picked up the final copy of a minicomic you really wanted, thus leaving our interactions lightly pained.

Golgo 13 Vol. 11 (of 13): The Wrong Man

God, we're really nearing the end of VIZ's big Duke Togo push, aren't we? Just two years ago you had to scrape around for this stuff in English, and now there's 2000 pages of it in bookstores across the US. No word on what might be coming next. I don't recall reading anything about how this series did for its publisher in terms of sales. Will G13 vanish again? Heaven knows there's countless thousands of pages waiting after these are all gone. I'd like to see more.

I'd also like to see more stuff along the lines of this volume's File 13 bonus section, the second half of a short but fascinating 2000 interview with creator Takao Saito, conducted by excitable superfan Kunio Suzuki ("When I read Golgo 13, I get so excited I sometimes feel like turning around and punching the person behind me."). It could be that Saito might only want to have an interview with someone who'd gleefully claim to have re-read the 118 volume entirety of the series beforehand in preparation, but god I'd like to see a level-headed, career-spanning chat with this guy.

For what we're shown, there's still a lot of interesting tidbits. Saito identifies Duke Togo as the impossible ideal of his personal philosophy ("I believe that being stoic is the epitome of male beauty."), discusses his opposition to film versions of the character ("Gekiga and movies express things in a completely different way. Gekiga are not fit for movies."), goes through some personal inspirations, lays out what makes a manga artist a pro, and reveals that he has every panel of the 'final' Golgo 13 story planned out in his head, although he denies rumors that the stuff's locked away in a vault somewhere, presumably to be cracked open upon his death.

As for the stories in this volume, both hail from 1996. First off, there's the 120-page Okinawa Syndrome (Story #350, January 1996), which jumps off of the infamous 1995 abduction/rape of a young girl by a pair of US Navy sailors as its historical flashpoint kick, but quickly becomes an extended meditation on Okinawan identity in a modern Japan that sometimes seems to have traded the prefecture away for the stability of the nation. Yep, it's one of the 'serious' G13 epics, providing a kaleidoscopic view of protestors, capitalists, aristocrats and revolutionaries, everything just slightly larger-than-life, the centerpiece being a lengthy hypothetical on how a charismatic leader and a small fighting force might bring the place to its knees and hold two nations hostage.

As you might expect, it's as info-dense as anything we've seen from Saito Production. Indeed, the first 50 or so pages are so stuffed with discussion of military history, trade restrictions and post-WWII yen rates, that some readers might find their eyes watering. Even after Duke shows up (in one of his most impressive entrances yet), there remains a certain intellectual distance that's absent from other well-studied, text-heavy G13 episodes, enough so that even the 'surprise' ending isn't so much a plot twist as simply unexpected in how it affects the ideas Saito & company are exploring.

Still, there's a peculiarly emphatic tone to this set-in-Japan lesson, conjuring notions of individuals beaten down by the many, only to be exploited by the powerful when they overcompensate with revolt. When a dying man questions why Duke (who is awesome) won't choose a side to put his warrior soul behind, you can feel Saito's words from last volume: "He's not a passionate man, but is trying very hard to be so."

The second story, The Wrong Man (Story #360, December 1996), is a total change of pace from not only the story directly before but from everything we've seen in English so far, in that it's an outright comedy. Cocky traveling salesman Tony Togo bears a striking resemblance to Our Hero, enough so that he's mistaken for the hired gun by a gang of mobsters who've ordered a hit on a well-guarded rival. It's pretty much nothing more than an excuse for Saito Pro to have a Golgo-looking character grin and leer and really enjoy the typical Golgo 13 fixtures of luxury and sex, only to panic magnificently through a parodically generic impossible hit.

Even at only 45 pages, the thin, one-joke premise comes perilously close to wearing out its welcome, and it's not aided by an annoying 'clever' ending that feels mostly like everyone ran out of better ideas a few pages early, but it is kind of nice to see the studio loosen up a little, especially now that we're far enough along in the series that most English-language readers can follow along with the G13 tropes as they're trotted out for fun. Hell, even the art winds up getting away for a while; the requisite sexy female character is drawn in an off-model, almost anime-sleek style, as if some girl-crazy specialist was allowed to cut loose for a few panels as a treat. Or maybe the time crunch was on.

Who knows what secrets are buried behind the scenes as Saito Production? I'd be happy enough to start learning more about Saito himself.