I should spend all my money at comics conventions more often...

*...because I got a lot more than usual done.


The Drifting Classroom Vol. 11 (of 11)

Disappearance Diary

Dororo Vol. 1 (of 3)

Plus, NYCC Part 2, as if another 4000 words were somehow necessary.

*All that was missing was some pamphlet reviews for another site I've been neglecting; I get the feeling this week will have several small things to talk about...


Dororo Vol. 1 (of 3): Osamu Tezuka presents monster fighting across the land that is war. Review here.

Thoreau at Walden: This is the new Center for Cartoon Studies project from Hyperion, a 112-page hardcover that sees John Porcellino (of King-Cat Comics) follow four seasons in the life of Henry David Thoreau. I suspect every Porcellino reader will want this. It's b&w, $16.99.

Ordinary Victories: I don't know if it's a reissue or just Diamond getting stuff in stock again, but I've heard good things about this 120-page Manu Larcenet book, all about life's small conflicts - publisher NBM will be releasing a concluding volume, Ordinary Victories: What is Precious, next month. Winner of the overall Best Comic Book prize at Angoulême 2004. Preview here.

The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch: Another one of those Michael Zulli hardcovers from Dark Horse, wherein a Neil Gaiman prose story is adapted to the comics form (see also: Creatures of the Night). I believe Gaiman has rewritten this one for the present edition; a subterranean circus and magic and things are involved. Look at it.

Leonard Starr's Mary Perkins On Stage Vol. 4: Gosh, now this thing's 264 pages, covering June 13, 1960 to September 16, 1961 for Starr's drama of the dramatic. Supplements include an introduction by Eddie Campbell, and a Starr interview conducted by Richard Howell & Carol Kalish. From Classic Comics Press, which will charge you $24.95, and is soon be starting a new Wash Tubbs & Captain Easy series, plus Stan Drake's The Heart of Juliet Jones. Note that Dondi Vol. 2 also arrives this week. And hell, IDW has The Complete Dick Tracy Vol. 4, so as not to be left out.

The Complete Green Lama Featuring the Art of Mac Raboy Vol. 1 (of 2): Meanwhile, in Golden Age superhero country, Dark Horse has this $49.95 hardcover devoted to Raboy's Buddhist adventurer of the pulps and panels. Three of the 208 pages are here.

Gon Vol. 4: Aw, that cute lil' dinosaur and his wordless accomplishments - he is an example to us all. This series is still only $5.99, in case you forgot.

Local #11 (of 12): Almost home for Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly; the site is Toronto, and Kelly co-writes. Short preview here.

Black Summer #6 (of 7): Elsewhere in the penultimate, superhero explosions belch chrome and muscle.

The Legion of Super-Heroes #41: Shooters, all.

Kabuki: Reflections #10: Process.

The Immortal Iron Fist #14: Fighting tournament storyline - over. Dare you look?

The Order #10: Entire series - over. Avert your eyes!

Thor: Ages of Thunder #1: Matt Fraction - over two books out in this week alone, including the first in a new suite of extra-sized, $3.99 pamphlets dedicated to the title character's background in godliness. Art by Patrick Zircher of the recent Terror, Inc.

Marvel Comics Presents #8: Noteworthy for the start of a new five-part Machine Man serial from writer Ivan Brandon and artist Niko Henrichon (of Pride of Baghdad). Many bits here.

Elephantmen: War Toys #3 (of 3): The conclusion of large animals firing guns in black & white - all things must pass. Image also has Youngblood #3 this week.

glamourpuss #1: Being Dave Sim's new pamphlet project. I think it's some sort of comics-format essay about photorealistic newspaper strip art, accomplished through renderings of fashion magazine spreads? And there's a 'plot' too? Er, I'll get back to you once I've read it.

DC Universe: Zero: You'd better not buy a cup of that coffee in the machine downstairs -- you know, the machine that didn't even have cups loaded for two weeks so that whenever you'd press the button your drink would just spray all over -- or else you'll miss this $0.50 harbinger of the subsequent DCU. Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns write, J.G. Jones and George Pérez and a whole bunch of other people illustrate. Pray it's a spray of good.



And so, the weekend of manga concluded with a visit to the Doctor.

Dororo Vol. 1 (of 3)

This should be out pretty soon. It's the new Osamu Tezuka release from Vertical, Inc., a right-to-left oriented softcover, 312 b&w pages for $13.95. It's doubtful you'll overlook Peter Mendelsund's cover design, which carries a certain charge beyond being merely striking - it's a new look for a new kind of Tezuka book, at least compared to what we've seen in English so far.

Simply put, Dororo is a straight-up action comic, stuffed from cover to cover with big fights, strange monsters, badass heroes, terrible villains, brooding atmosphere, swinging swords, gushing blood, black magic and bizarre phenomena. And that's not something Tezuka is typically known for in the West - Astro Boy might have its fights, but they're usually presented in a gentle-hearted, educational manner (oh when will humans and robots ever love?!), while the likes of Phoenix or Adolph are primarily concerned with philosophy or politics, or fine-tuned suspense mechanisms.

Not here. This is Tezuka's Hellboy, mixing occult politics, reimagined fables and two-fisted monster mashing into its saga of a monster/monster hunter hero, born into this world against his will and looking for somewhere to belong. It was a popular enough project during its initial 1967-68 run, although Tezuka never quite got around to giving it a firm ending. It was adapted to anime in 1969, and more recently spawned a 2004 Playstation 2 game (Blood Will Tell, featuring revised character designs by Hiroaki Samura of Blade of the Immortal) and a 2007 live-action film that's now going to be a trilogy - one might suspect this multimedia push did much to prod the manga's current release.

The story follows the adventures of teenage wanderer Hyakkimaru and his boy sidekick Dororo, as they make their way around a fantasy Japan in the midst of its extended Sengoku period of warring states. Poor Hyakkimaru has it hard from the start. His father, an ambitious Lord, cuts a deal with a horde of 48 demons: each will get one body part from the soon-to-be-born child in exchange for the diabolical power necessary to rule the land. The infant boy is thus born as little more than a human-like lump of flesh, and left to float in a basket, as a bastard, down a nearby river.

But as luck would have it, the bundle is found by The Most Magnificent Doctor in Japan, who discovers that the boy possesses mighty psychic powers and builds him an amazing prosthetic body so as to pass for normal. Seasoned Tezuka readers will note that this concept was recycled in the artist's later Black Jack series (the next Tezuka project Vertical will release!) as the origin story for the title character's own kid sidekick Pinoko, although she didn't have to deal with the shape-shifting spirits of the dead hounding her every step due to her haunted nature. Nor did Black Jack think to install hidden swords in her hollow arms or a "caustic water" hose in one leg - eat your heart out, Ogami Ittō!

Anyway, Hyakkimaru learns that by slaying the 48 demons he can get his lost body parts back, one by one, and he becomes a great fighter of legend who can use his innate superpowers to 'see' and 'hear' enough to hand out credible ass kickings. He also hooks up with Dororo, a child thief who'll fight anyone, tooth and fingernail, and their exploits are duly presented as they grow attached to one another while ending the lives of various entities.

A good deal of space in this volume is spent on both characters' origins -- according to Tezuka in English, Dororo was supposed to be a reader identification figure for the young audience, hence his name as the title, although everyone wound up liking the badass swordsman more -- but there's still time for clashes with a nasty frog monster that's won a village's trust, and a white-haired man who's possessed by the bloodlust of his cursed sword. And if Hyakkimaru seems more a 16th century Daredevil than Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, rest assured that his luck is just as bad as your favorite Marvel characters of the late '60s - every adventure ends with him and Dororo getting unceremoniously booted out of town by an ungrateful populace.

All of this is accomplished via Tezuka's berserk entertainment aesthetic, which sees broad cartoon slapstick mingle with gory mayhem, comedy transforming into melodrama. Characters sometimes speak in modern slang, read manga, namedrop yōkai artist Shigeru Mizuki, and make reference to space aliens and cyborgs. Tezuka himself pops up on the page a few times, at one point getting his head cut off in the midst of an otherwise serious massacre sequence. Don't ask how Hyakkimaru's body is supposed to work, or how he can process visual information once he gets one of his real eyes back - a powerful trust is required between you and the characters! One delightful bit has Dororo receiving a psychic message, causing him to stare directly into the fourth wall and ask, "Was it you, reader?"

Perhaps because this approach plays out in the form of a horror-tinged action comic, Dororo ultimately feels like the most surreal thing we've seen of Tezuka's. The visual particulars are just as graceful as you'd expect from the Tezuka of the late '60s, sleek in design and swift in pacing, if not nearly as ambitious as they'd get in the older-skewing works of roughly the same time and thereafter (COM had just been founded in '67, for example), but the story's blend of mayhem and laffs and depression creates a uniquely chaotic world, one where Hyakkimaru can pop out his fake eyes as a joke, and duel with a pair of ghost sandals that spew geysers of blood when slashed. The monster designs are excellent, ranging from detailed etchings to gargantuan masses of doomy scribbles.

But in the end, for all its high/low spirits, Dororo is a dark work, one that suggests the effect of gekiga on even Tezuka's most youth-ready concepts. The cloud of war hangs over absolutely everything in these stories, from the circumstances that see both heroes left to wander the land as outcasts, to the demon that positions itself as rainmaker for a town ruined by battle. The cursed sword became addicted to blood after gorging itself on executions, and brings out the latent anger in all who hold it, because all are filled with hate at this world. People starve, resorting to cannibalism. When asked if this is what hell is like, a character replies "Hell's a lot better than this!"

Is it any wonder devils and monsters are roaming around? Tezuka may be patterning some of his stories after old tales, but his setting seems more the result of a man who came of age during a time of destructive militarism, and his struggles between samurai and peasants (do note that Hyakkimaru and Dororo come from opposite ends of the social order!) speak of the upheaval of '60s Japan. Sanpei Shirato's Marx-tinged ninja extravaganza The Legend of Kamui was still ongoing while Dororo was serialized, and though Tezuka's own sword-swinger isn't quite as political, his visions of ancient beasts and creatures from Hell find a most accommodating Japan to slither through.

But they can be killed.

Fitting for an action comic of this sort, the old Tezuka idealism creeps through in the realization that a man can be made whole by rolling up his sleeves, taking off his arms, and cutting through the cruelty of the world. His magic healing may undo the ambitions of the cold and powerful. We won't know, since the work is incomplete, but at least Tezuka's fables can offer some strange consolation, organ by organ through the nation's body populace.


"This manga has a positive outlook on life, and so it has been made with as much realism removed as possible."

Disappearance Diary

This is the newest release from Fanfare/Ponent Mon, 200 b&w pages for $22.99. It's an acclaimed recent work by longtime manga and doujinshi artist Hideo Azuma, winner of both the Grand Prize for Manga at the 2005 Japan Media Arts Festival and the Grand Prize at the 2006 Osamu Tezuka Cultural Awards.

It's not readily available quite yet. I bought it right out of Fanfare's booth at last weekend's New York Comic Con; owing to Fanfare's distribution troubles, it might not show up in many US stores until late this year, although copies may pop up via UK sources a bit earlier. I think this place even ships free to North America, so keep an eye peeled.

Azuma is yet another one of those influential manga artists who've had basically no work released in English - the situation is especially unfortunate in his case, since this work is an autobiographical comic that would doubtlessly be enhanced by some exposure to the man's body of work. In the 'mainstream' he was noted for humor and sci-fi comics, winning the Seiun Award in 1979 for his Fujōri Nikki. He's apparently done extensive work in autobiographical manga in the small press, and has been long active in doujinshi circles.

And it was from there that he popularized the concept of 'lolicon' -- the eroticisation of young girls -- in manga, from whence much anime and miscellaneous pop cultural fanservice took flower. Granted, Azuma didn't coin the term or anything, nor did he act as some lone, uncaused cause of high school panty flashes and bloody noses. The artist himself, in one of the inevitable 'story of my career' segments of this book, attributes the origins of the stuff to a collision of like-minded interests for which he provided a forum with the fanzine Shiberu.

Fascinatingly, he also characterizes the effort as a reaction to the rise of yaoi in doujinshi circles, which raises a whole host of gender conflict and objectification issues, seeing as how yaoi was both emblematic of the rise of female manga artists as a major force in a formerly male-dominated art form (the 1978 Seiun winner for manga? Keiko Takemiya's To Terra...), and arguably a fetishization of a marginalized subset of the population (homosexual men) for the pleasure of a larger group (heterosexual women).

Did the answer to this phenomena involve a much more powerful group (heterosexual men) focusing their gaze on a larger, less powerful subset of the opposite gender (teenage-and-under women)? I don't know enough to speak with authority, but I do know I'd have liked more reflection on that topic.

That's not what Disappearance Diary is about, though. It has other questions to ponder.

Following a short prelude in which the author drunkenly attempts to hang himself in the woods but winds up falling asleep with the noose around his neck, the book tracks three nasty periods in the life of a man who can't help but vanish from polite company. Events are recounted in a sober, detail-oriented style that brings to mind Kazuichi Hanawa's Doing Time, although Azuma's old-fashioned, blobby-faced art is far brighter, and his construction of each chapter emphasizes absurdities and awkward moments for comedic effect, all the better to juxtapose against the harshness of his subject matter - at times, it's a bit like reading a semi-serious Beetle Bailey graphic novel about Sarge's attempts to drop out of society.

This gives the work a unique tone, one that won't sit well with all readers, I expect. In 1989, Azuma fails to return from a research trip, holing up in the mountains to live without a home, listening to the cartilage in his joints noisily contract as he sleeps in the winter air, eating and drinking and smoking whatever discarded shit he can find. He starts off stealing food from another drifter, but eventually restricts his thievery to books. He cringes at being called a 'beggar,' since he won't beg for anything, but being called a 'bum' is pretty cool. Lots of helpful tips are included for you freegans out there; Our Hero actually winds up gaining weight after establishing a regular supermarket cache, although he does his share of puking.

Most crucially, he shows no remorse, even though he makes it very clear he has a family at home and editors that depend on him. It's Azuma's wife that files the missing person reports that eventually lead the police to haul him back home, but he affords her almost no character in this book. In 1992, Azuma once more winds up running away, this time finding work in pipe fitting under an assumed identity, making new friends and living in a new society, and going so far as to become a cartoonist all over again with his contributions to the company newsletter. And even after he's dragged back home, he persists on keeping up his new life; in one notable instance, he deletes an account of a post-reunion interaction with his wife because "none of this was funny."

Some will find Azuma's self-presentation to be impossibly callous, although I think it's clear this is a deliberate creative choice rather than mere self-absorption. A pair of supplementary interviews -- a giggly, fannish chat with Tori Miki and a 'serious' talk with Kiuchi Maya (the latter of which is literally hidden, like a dvd easter egg, presumably so as not to interfere with the book's aesthetic) -- reveal that Azuma is aware of the effect his actions had on his loved ones, not to mention that his wife did the finishes on the book's art!

Throughout the story there are little reminders, implicit and explicit, that what we're reading is an abridged-for-entertainment account of true events, as if all the pain in the world could be subsumed into wacky gags... or perhaps gags are the better way of making such painful things approachable?

Regardless, a subtext develops from Azuma's creative choices. I think it's natural for the reader to expect a moment of certain realization for the primary character in this sort of book, a point at which he or she can label his or her own actions as 'wrong,' even if it's only some crucial crossing-of-the-line rock-bottom moment ('After I ate that toy poodle without even cooking it, I knew I was sick!'). Often, society at large is thereby affirmed in its existance as the path which all persons ought to stick to on their hike through living ('Now I have a good job and a loving wife, and several unmolested terriers!').

There's none of that in here; stuff just happens with Azuma, and in a fairly merry way, which gives rise to the suggestion that there's nothing implicitly wrong with drastically reasserting one's position in society. The artist acknowledges that he's sick in several ways, suffering from depression and anxiety, and the entire third segment of the book focuses on a 1998 alcohol-related hospitalization, but he neither requests sympathy nor imposes any grand epiphanies upon his narrative. The book does not end; it stops, implying that there will likely be more to follow.

Hardly a new literary device, but it fits in well with Azuma's episodic comedic stylings; just as Beetle will never get an honorable discharge, and Marmaduke will never stop being big and knocking things over (thank heavens), Azuma's inclinations will also endure, their accordant pain coded in art and fleeting in memory, processed into experience. Not a bad approach for an autobiographical comic that's out to entertain in open contempt of 'realism,' since it conveys all the uncertainty of life regardless.

I doubt anyone will be making unequivocal recommendations of this book once it finally pops up in a semi-visible manner - it's too loose in design, too disinclined toward dramatic impact, and its lead character is sure to piss some people off. But I found Azuma's viewpoint to be compelling, and armed with a narrative that fits its take on life as a compilation of punchlines tinged with pain, but still oddly amusing.


"No, I can make it on my own."

The Drifting Classroom Vol. 11 (of 11)

The final volume of this series is 11, because that's where the volume is set. Like always.

In case anyone was afraid that Kazuo Umezu was planning to cool it off for the grand finale, rest assured that the desperate final scheme of our lost band of children revolves almost entirely around explosions and earthquakes, Sho's mom unveils her most crackpot gambit yet, there's a musical interlude by boy band pop sensation The Angel Four, and a crucial threat to Our Heroes is removed by somebody reaching through the very fabric of time to strangle it. So, it sort of ends as it begins.

Oh sure - now that we're all the way through, it's clear that there's a hundred or so things 'wrong' with The Drifting Classroom, if you want to take it like a lot of other manga out there. Umezu's art has gotten increasingly haggard over the course of the series, with several pages near the beginning of this final volume filled with almost nothing but close-ups of smudged, black-eyed yowling faces, surrounded by spiny zones of screaming white; you'd be forgiven for wondering if some of that yelling was really there to avoid having to draw too much stuff under those killer deadlines.

Well, I like it anyway; it's as if the situation has gotten so intense in-story for the characters that the makeup of their world, the art on the page, is becoming more and more harsh and furied. I do miss Umezu's excellent, frequent use of splashes from earlier in the series, but there's still a few good ones - the image of all the children laying on the bellies in a circle, with one crucial girl facing up toward the reader, is an effective one indeed.

Effect has always been most crucial to this series. The characters never so much develop as encounter new things to test their latant spirit. You can't derive enjoyment from picking apart the clockwork precision of this series' construction; major plot points in this last installment are set up only a few dozen pages before they're needed, and characters operate on what seems closer to dream logic than rational impetus. But that's the fun - more than with any other traditional storytelling-type comic around, I really and truly believe that whole segments of this series originated with Kazuo Umezu shooting up in bed on certain mornings, shouting HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT and scribbling out notes and sketches like man possessed.

Hell, I'm sure some of these machinations were of more cynical origin -- can't you just hear some Weekly Shōnen Sunday editor approaching Our Man and whispering "baseball is popular with boys, Umezu," the result being that extended game in the middle of Vol. 6? -- but it always fits, because Umezu is never less than confident in his style and tone. And yeah, some will surely find the series' loud-and-louder nature to be numbing, but I think there's so much to enjoy in Umezu's drifting between frequencies of noise.

Little wonder that the series has found itself adopted by certain alternative comics readers for this VIZ-published run; the moment was nearly perfect for such unfettered mad ideas and damn-it-all visual idiosyncrasy running rampant through a once-mainstream. The series may have been aimed at kids during its 1972-74 serialization, but there's so much fascination inherent to its lack of moderation and its blowsy cultural critique that it's hard not to take it at face value, and get wrapped up in the tribulations it sends its young cast through. Even at seven panels per page, on average, it flies by.

All of this serves to make the final volume a bit more interesting, because it's here that the story's underlying spirit, something awfully specific to its time and place of creation, shines brightest. It may be an archetypical survival horror saga, but The Drifting Classroom is also an old-stock shōnen epic, redolent with classic values of friendship, perseverance and victory. Pure young love is affirmed, old foes join forces, hard work and guts reign supreme, smiling faces appear in the sky and tears are shed... there's even a message of Japan-U.S. cooperation! And god love him, Umezu hits each and every one of those beloved virtues with exactly the same guitar rock fury he brings to earlier visions of panic and blood - it's unashamed, and immensely satisfying.

Yet there are things lurking around behind these tight maneuvers. As always, Umezu's subtext is unfailingly critical of adult activity beyond parental love; early volumes all but shouted at young readers not to trust in their stupid goddamned authority figures, load of nutcases and incompetents they are. Adults ruin the world, and fill it with conniving and violence. So can kids, but kids can change, and with them change society. I doubt it's a coincidence that the most horrible of the series' adults seems to be designed as a self-portrait of the author himself - why should the adult Umezu be off the hook? The world of children might be one of total, random fear, as critic Saburo Kawamoto notes in a two-page supplementary essay (there's also a bonus Umezu horror short, best described as 31 pages of awesome), but Umezu's story suggests it's also one of immense hope, that new potential might rise from the deadly earth like a miracle river.

I haven't read nearly enough vintage shōnen to know if this counts as subversive, but it seems the final fates of Umezu's children, their embodiment of good values, rises from their rejection of the very society that has deemed those values good, but failed to live up to them; a far cry from some of the author's early horror stories, which often served to reinforce societal norms! Adults can be good in Umezu's world, but they cannot affect lasting change; they can only ease the way for the young.

Such a simple theme, for a series that thrives in easy-to-grasp meanings: adults can look to the future, but children need to live there. God, you'd swear he's talking to us, through the vortex of time, 1974 to 2008, man to children and back to men. Like it never gets through.

Can you blame him for saying it loud?


A Shape of Things, Part 2 (of 2)

(part 1)



9:10 AM - The Hall of Breakfast, Although I Accidentally Typed "Hell" Back There for a Second, Which is a Pretty Telling Mistake:

Free breakfast: it makes hotels worth it. This particular hotel's breakfast was attended by everybody at once, which resulted in delicious toasted bedlam at the english muffin conveyer belt. The french toast sticks didn't look very good (though I appreciated the internationalism), so I picked up a sausage patty and plunked it down in between halves of my muffin. Chris congratulated me on my ingenuity, and then I spilled coffee on my arm, presaging greater pain to follow.

You see, we had to check out of our room before heading back to the show, which meant I had to pack up my bag with Gary Panter and everything else I'd bought; it all fit nicely, I thought to use my Midtown Comics bag from Friday as a laundry sack, I had a big gold Hellboy 2 bag left over from the Dark Horse booth to use for the show, and I even noticed that I'd brought a shoulder strap... but I was hurting by the time we got outside. I was barely out the door and I was already trying to trick my body into believing that if I stuck one of my thumbs under the shoulder strap it'd offer that much relief from the strain.

We didn't have far to walk, luckily - the shuttle bus pickup spot was right across the street, although it took about half and hour for a shuttle to actually arrive, causing one impatient man by our side to storm back across the street and into the hotel. He was never seen again.

10:20 AM - The Javits Center:

Chris is a worldly man, and wise to the ways of the New York Comic Con, so he knew to direct us right to the baggage check-in station, where you pay them $5.00 to put your things on the floor. I was handed a blue ticket, but the look of hate in the clerk's eyes as she dragged my suitcase-with-a-torso-in-it over to the pile was reward enough.

It was a lot more crowded on Saturday. A lot, even that early. Lots more press -- I think I saw someone walking around for his high school newspaper -- and lots more cosplay. I saw several sandy-haired girls as Link (he's like Peter Pan, or the Takarazuka Revue - guys needn't apply), a lot of Stormtroopers, a shitload of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and a very impressive Hellboy with a light-up Right Hand of Doom. Some of the kids seemed to take the spirit of the thing as a chance to dress up in non-specific flashy outfits - there were girls reading Brandon Graham comics that looked like they just stepped out of one. A punk rock guy sneezed on my shoulder as we walked toward the Con floor; looking back, I guess it's not very punk rock to cover your fucking mouth, shitface.

10:30 AM - The Fanfare/Ponent Mon Booth (#2343):

It was still a half-hour until Chris needed to get to the Marvel panel he was covering, and he asked me to show him over to Fanfare. Stephen Robson (Fanfare's founder and, unless I'm mistaken, sole full-time employee) was there, in an orange Ben Grimm shirt, prepared to please all comers. He's a really enthusiastic, gregarious fellow, always ready to supply a full rundown of everything he's got coming up, often pulling out a handy French edition of said upcoming book for your perusal.

Hell, I took a peek, before leaving Chris to his conversation. Korea as Viewed by 12 Creators looks great, with what seems to be an all-new European crew, including Igort(!) and Vanyda (of The Building Opposite). Tons of upcoming Jirō Taniguchi too, including the five-volume The Summit of the Gods (written by Yumemakura Baku; winner of an Excellence Price at the 2001 Japan Media Arts Festival), the one-off The Quest for the Missing Girl (Taniguchi, back in noir mode!), the hugely acclaimed Harukana Machi-E (aka: Quartier lointain; winner of an Excellence Prize at the 1999 Japan Media Arts Festival and Best Scenario at Angoulême 2003), and more of The Times of Botchan. Let's hope their new distribution gets this stuff out broadly!

As noted before, Fanfare's table was part of a Little Britain in the small press area of the floor; Knockabout Comics was off to one side, and I picked up a copy of their 1989 Seven Deadly Sins anthology, featuring Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Bryan Talbot, Dave Gibbons and more. Where can you find 19-year old anthologies just sitting around in neat stacks? Comic Con!

10:40 AM - The Science Fiction Continuum Booth (#2140):

You can also find boxes of overstock anime dvds for $10 a pop ($8 if you buy five), with extra box set deals, after you fight your way through the bigger-by-the-moment crowd. Lots of hands on that anime; it was getting pretty hectic. I was sorely tempted to blow $45 on a complete run of the early '90s Black Jack OVA series, but I settled on filling in various gaps - I'd never gotten Mamoru Oshii's 1984 Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer movie on dvd, nor the original Project A-Ko.

I learned with great delight that the Tatsuo Saito/Masaaki Yuasa mini-epic Cat Soup was one of their best selling discs of the weekend; in case anyone hasn't seen Yuasa's current tv project, Kaiba, it's like something out of a parallel world where Osamu Tezuka was a founding contributor to Métal Hurlant, with scenery out of Fantastic Planet and chase scenes in the arcade laserdisc tradition of Space Ace. It's cool.

I was pretty happy with my purchases, and hurried away. I was jostled back and forth, and made to stand in place. Neko hats stumbled by; I nearly had to grab a cape to steady myself.

Five minutes later, I was back to the table.

"Um, did you see a cell phone around here?"

"Was it in some kinda case?"


The guy at the table smirked.

"We get a couple phones left here every day."


"But you were the earliest."

10:55 AM - The Moment of Realization:

I didn't want to be on the floor anymore.

10:57 AM - The Escalator, Down:

That wasn't totally the Con's fault. I mean, it was a nice day out, and it was three hours until any panel I wanted to see. And I was in New York.

10:58 AM - The Concourse:

But there was something appreciably different about the floor of this 'big,' 'mainstream' con from the 'indy' ones I'd been to, SPX and MoCCA. Besides size and simple subject matter.

At SPX and MoCCA, the floor tends to resemble a buzzing mega-mall of comics. Yes, it's obviously possible to simply move around from table to table and get to know people and chat, and have that be your con experience, but I don't think it's much of a stretch to name capitalism as the primary force. The last time I was at SPX I picked up a neat-looking minicomic and asked the guy at the table if I could "pick it up." That's a figure of speech; I didn't really want to just pick it up and take it away, and I feel silly even explaining it here, but sure enough, someone sitting nearby glared at me and snapped "you have to pay for it." Yeah!

At those cons, the artists double as salesmen. Their items go directly to you. There's downsides to that; as Bart Beaty once mused, "I really think that there is a huge desire on the part of many fans to go to shows to buy books. That's what they most want to do... But how much shopping can you really do? And is that what comics are? An opportunity to shop?" The result is that the comics form is presented at such festivals as predominantly commercial, with aesthetic appreciation crunched under the hustle to move copies. Bart wasn't talking about a big-time convention, video games and custom kimonos included, and maybe something like the NYCC would be ill-served by shifting focus to the art of comics... but that's getting off-topic. Exchange is primary on the floor, as I'm illustrating.

But something like the NYCC exchanges as much in anticipation and pursuasion as immediacy, purchase, which maybe makes it more of a proper industry trade show, as I understand it. At SPX or MoCCA, the sale is most often tethered to the person, along with the perception that with the person goes the work. There's publishers around, sure, but the locus of the exchange remains on the floor itself, personal books vanishing with the tables at weekend's conclusion.

At a show like the NYCC, that feeling is captured in the Artist Alley, off to one side. But the large publishers? The dealers? I can find it all elsewhere, somewhere. I'm pretty much part of this stream of commerce, in that I know where to look to get things, and as such I don't need to do much more than stop and glance at 1/5 of the booths, and nothing brings me back. I guess I could line up for a smile and an autograph from a favorite artist, but I've never been big on that kind of formalized interaction, and it's hard to talk more deeply in the middle of a big hustle; the floor isn't built to hold that.

That's not all a con like the NYCC has to offer -- like I've mentioned before, the very size of comics offers a certain closeness, as indicated by the woman behind me who crowed about accidentally chit-chatting with Frank Miller while smoking outside the building -- and if you bring a whole gaggle of friends you can make a day of the sheer occasion of it all, but me? No interesting panels to attend?

I felt like going outside, and I'm a capitalist swine. I wanted to shop. I've never felt like that at a smaller con, where I'd have already spent more time on the floor. Even the panels at a show like this are often geared toward hype and tease, and there's nothing implicitly wrong with that, given the venue, but I don't feel the need to be present for it. I know my internet. I'll find things out.

11:00 AM - 33rd Street:

So I hit the street. Walking across town, I could sense how the Con had affected my psychology; on Friday, I had avoided accepting any handouts or leaflets, but hours of people thrusting postcards and papers on the Con floor had me willing to pick things up outside too. Er, I think I might be a Scientologist now.

I picked up a free Starbucks card (good for a tall coffee YES). I picked up a café brochure. One guy was fiddling with his cards, and I stuck my hand right out. He laughed.

"Oh man..."

11:35 AM -The Empire State Building:

Holy shit, the Empire State Building! I hadn't been there since I was 15 or something!

Did you know there's fuckall to do on the ground floor of the Empire State Building? Well, there was a King Kong exhibit in a dark corner, but... unless you want to hit the New York City Skyride IN 3D... there isn't even a men's room. Nice walls, though.

11:40 AM - Jim Hanley's Universe:

Again, capitalist swine.

Hanley's is a nice shop; it actually reminded me a lot of one of my local shops in terms of space and decor, if not selection. I couldn't find a single Fanfare/Ponent Mon book, but I saw a lot of everything else. It's a crowded place, though, and the organization takes some getting used to (if you don't want to ask for help or anything, which maybe you do). They had a 25% off sale going, and an event with Ariel Schrag (whom I saw at the Con) later that evening.

The best part for me by far was the dead-cheap blow-out manga bin, which had some treasures tucked away. I found a nice copy of Saber Tiger, one of VIZ's old Spectrum Editions from the early '90s with the ribbed softcover dustjackets, a line that also included the awesome Hotel Harbour View (by Natsuo Sekikawa and the aforementioned Jirô Taniguchi) and the considerably less awesome Shion: Blade of the Minstrel (by Yuu Kinutani). It's a collection of two early stories by Yukinobu Hoshino (of 2001 Nights and The Two Faces of Tomorrow), very heavily influenced by the sci-fi pulps. Which means the first tale has sexy ladies in skin-tight spacesuits using ray guns to fight off prehistoric beasts for the future of humankind.

The second story is titled The Planet of the Unicorn. I don't think further elaboration is necessary.

But the big, big find was an untranslated back issue of AX, Vol. 40 (August 2004). AX is the descendent of Garo, the foremost 'underground' manga anthology for decades, and maintains an aesthetic stance that wobbles delightfully from crazed scribbling to super-slick visual design; it represents the avant-garde of Japanese comics as much as any six-per-year publication probably can. It's a chunky thing, about the same in dimension as the old digest-type SPX anthologies, and filled with comics and articles and historical features on porn and all the good shit.

Vol. 40 in particular has a cover feature on Shizuka Nakano (of Le Piqueur d’étoiles), but the most striking bits for me were a Kotobuki Shiriagari serial chapter that consisted of nothing but huge splashes of fire and destruction and ruined, gawking faces, and a very funny-looking story by Michihiro Hori, who has a great visual style. There's also a column(?) by the great King Terry, and a little thing by Takashi Nemoto, soon to have an English-language book out from PictureBox (which is maybe the North American publisher closest to the AX 'style' in terms of its releases). There's also a story by a person whose name I can't make out, but it's called Ox Cry and features a death metal guy whipping out his penis on stage and ejaculating into the face of a concert promoter, I think. I wish it was in English.

12:20 PM - Under the Lunchtime Sun:

It was so nice out that I walked to a park and sat in it.

1:40 PM - Back At the Con, By the Heavy Metal Booth (#1813):

By this time Chris was already covering his last panel of the weekend, the Legion of Super-Heroes gala, and I was ready to hit a panel myself. But I couldn't help but noticing the Heavy Metal booth - there was a line.

I don't mean to impugn Heavy Metal; it had a nice booth, and everything in it was 50% off. I wound up (finally) getting that reissue of Lob's & Pichard's Ulysses. And Kevin Eastman was manning the ship the whole time, it looked like.

Ah, that was it.

A quick peek at the makeup of the line revealed a single unifying element: Turtles. Limited edition NYCC Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys, and Peter Laird was signing them at the NECA booth across the floor, which meant that everyone was flowing over to pick up Eastman's handwriting too. It looked like he came prepared with copies of his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Artobiography book. God, that was his first comic, those Turtles. A Frank Miller parody comic, and it'll always be at his side.

I then tried to move back upwards to one of the main arteries on the floor, only to run into yet another autograph line, an extra-long one. What rock star could it be?

Why, Mark Evanier! With his Kirby: King of Comics book. I couldn't actually see Evanier, but I imagined he was wearing rock star clothes, like a moss green suit with matching tie and a black dress shirt, and a orange mink coat. And a signing pen bejeweled with opal and ruby.

When I win the Eisner for Best Comics Journalism Via Blogger Default Template, I'm gonna dress just like Mark Evanier.

2:00 PM: Grant Morrison Spotlight Panel (Room 1E10-1E11):

This was the only panel I sat through from start to finish, and the hour flew by. It was standing-room-only, and I was one of the assholes standing, but I didn't care. I didn't catch the moderator's name, but he got really into the opening presentation, reading a compilation of Morrison quotes aloud, dramatically, as a big screen flashed images from various comics. I was very happy to see bits of Bible John and The New Adventures of Hitler flash by; the crowd applauded Arkham Asylum, We3 and, interestingly, Vimanarama.

As soon as the lights came up, Morrison demanded questions from the crowd - the entire panel would consist of audience interaction. A lot of the questions were pretty simple, familiar ones; I'm sure Morrison has some of the answers timed down to perfection after hundreds of interviews, as it goes for almost everyone who does a lot of publicity. Still, it was good to hear the man saying things - there's no doubt in my mind that some of his comments, stripped of inflection and plopped down on a page or screen, might seem prickly or irritated, but Morrison is a soft-spoken, ingratiating presenter, who puts a lot of obvious good humor behind his words. He's quite down-to-earth.

There's a few reports from the panel online, here and here and here; the second one does the best job of capturing Morrison's tone, although I could have sworn his answers were more poetic at times. When someone said they didn't understand the final issue of The Invisibles, I heard Morrison say "Of course you did! The words are what you read, and the pictures are what you saw!" But hey, I was in the back.

He'd announced a pair of new creator-owned series at the Vertigo panel on Friday (I'd only find this out later), which got a few fleeting references - they're called War Cop (about post-9/11 fetishization of the soldier) and Me and an Atomic Bomb (concerning the daughter of an infamous villain and the secret agent who's after her). But much time was spent on the two new Seaguy series, which Morrison sees as a trilogy charting the title character's metaphorical growth from a naïve child to an angry adolescent to a mature adult.

The first Seaguy is my favorite Morrison work of the 21st century, along with The Filth (which Morrison ranked with Flex Mentallo as among his personal favorites - you should have seen his Max Hardcore impression). I've come to see it as an allegorical comment on writing better superhero comics, redolent with the futility that seemed to mark the Marvel mutant books following his New X-Men. The second Seaguy will see the title character revamped into a bullfighter but longing for something else, while the third will see him journeying to the site of the Anti-Dad's crash (Australia) to confront the concept of death in a superhero world. That last bit seems of particular fascination to Morrison these days, with All Star Superman and Batman both prepping their heroes for doom.

Lots of fun, and tiny bits of revelation. I was struck by a passing mention of how reading negative reviews of The Authority helped convince Morrison to "fuck it" regarding the final issue of his run (#3 was apparently written, but never illustrated). He stood up for Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin (the colors were great!), and recommended the 2004 Lt. Blueberry movie Renegade (Blueberry: L'expérience secrète) for the best drug experience scene on film (although he warned the crowd against watching the rest of it). Con workers at the back of the room kept telling him to wrap it up, but nobody at the front listened.

When it all finally ended, we crashed into a huge line of kids in costumes waiting to see the Avatar preview that was coming up next. It was good and surreal.

3:10 PM - The Food Court:

I called Chris on my somehow not-lost cell phone, and he warned me against trying to get into the press room again. I don't try; I succeed. He also told me it'd be ok to get lunch on my own, so I went over to an Italian stand for some tasty $9.50 chicken parmesan with penne in vodka sauce. There was also bread, but it was a hamburger bun ripped in half. That really disturbed me, for some reason.

4:00 PM - The Dark Horse Booth (#823):

I went back up to the floor, then Chris called to meet him. Just as I began walking by the Dark Horse booth, Mike Mignola (and I think the Hellboy 2 cast?) showed up. Immediately, everything in a 20-foot circumference was a thatch of bodies and flashing lights. It was impressive.

4:08 PM - The IGN.com Theater:

Chris looked really happy to have gotten all the news out to the world beyond the walls of the Javits Center. I suggested we celebrate by taking in a preview of Frank Miller's All Star Denny Colt: The Motion Picture. Sadly, we were told that the film previews were running late, and the sneak peek at The Incredible Hulk was just getting started. We left to go eat (er, Chris ate; I offered advice and support).

I later saw the official teaser online. All that unreal, over-the-top jumping and posing and acting makes it look like a contemporary tokusatsu superhero movie; just add bright colors and you'd have Hideaki Anno's 2004 Cutey Honey movie. A lot of people hated that too.

5:20 PM - The Bag Pile:

And so, we walked around a little bit more, pretended we understood the words in various French comics, and got ready to leave. It was a little disorganized at the baggage table; All Star Super Lois Lane was poking around for something she lost, and Wolverine was getting antsy behind us. The woman at the counter took my ticket and found my bag, and motioned for me to come over.

"That thing's heavy," she said, "I'm not carrying it."

5:45 PM - Madison Square Garden:

We didn't visit the Red Light district, back when I was a teenager. We didn't even have a sense of how the streets worked. We only remembered the basics of our paths, and backtracked appropriately when we were done eating. No strays, no mess.

It's easy to keep your bearings in the middle of New York City, as an adult. It's all mapped and logical. Chris pointed our way to the station, and reading the streets was simple. It reminded me of this old trailer park I used to deliver pizzas to when I was in high school. We called it the Abyss, because it was so easy to get lost in its mania of inchoate designations. You could drive for hours, and find nothing.

I still can't give directions. Not in this town. But I can read a grid, and I like to walk, and that's enough for a tourist in a city of tourists, gone off to a show in a room, stands finely apportioned. I'm a romantic, but I wonder if my guts aren't truly inclined toward the intuition of rising and falling numbers, analogized by the debit of dollars leaving a wallet.

My shoulder was breaking, but it didn't.

7:15 PM: Another Train:

Seriously, that bag was too heavy to dig anything out of.

But I bet I could have lifted it to whack the screaming kid behind me.



10:30 AM - My Bathroom:

Fucking hell! I left my toothbrush at the hotel! Fuck you, New York Comic Con!! I HATE YOU FOREVER.




Ugh, sorry...

*Got addicted to primary results tonight; I'll finish that trip report tomorrow.

*This is awesome, though.


Trip Report Intermission

*We've got features that need regularity!


Nothing but NYCC Part 1, and the second half's up tomorrow. And I made an index for my reviews in The Comics Journal, which can be found on the sidebar.

*The hell? I've bought enough books already.


Klassic Komics Klub: Ah, this was floating around at the Con too; it's the new collection of Johnny Ryan one-pagers (three minicomics' worth) from Buenaventura Press, taking on over 100 classic works of fine literature. You know you want it, and $14.95 won't stop you. I think the deluxe 'art comics' presentation -- a sleek, 6 3/4" x 8 1/2" hardcover with fancy page edges -- makes it all funnier.

Injury #2: Buenaventura also has a pamphlet-format release this week (since Diamond loves nothing more than popping out every blessed one of a small publisher's upcoming books in a single shot), a sequel to last year's Ted May-headed Injury Comics. It's now 40 b&w pages for the same $4.95, and features the same mix of youth autobiography and cyborg smashing, with cohorts Jeff Wilson & Jason Robards aboard. Exciting preview map here.

Welcome to the Dahl House: I liked the two issues I've seen of Ken Dahl's minicomic series Monsters, a detailed and vivid look at life with herpes, so I'd probably be up for checking out this Microcosm Publishing collection of his short stories from 1997-2007. Only $7.00 for 128 pages too.

X-O Manowar: Birth: This is the second in Valiant Entertainment's line of hardcover collections for ye olde hype bookes of the early '90s, collecting all six pre-Unity exploits of the barbarian in the kill suit, plus the later issue #0 with art by Joe Quesada & Jimmy Palmiotti. Note the special guest layouts by Barry Windsor-Smith on issue #1 and Steve Ditko(!!) on issue #6. With a new story by Bob Layton & Mike Leek, and digital colors all around. Yeah, I'm one of those fools that misses the airbrush effects, but I think the materials have been lost. It's 192 pages for $24.95.

Metronome: I am told that this 68-page, $13.95 NBM graphic novel, the first sequential medium release by conceptual and 'fine' artist Véronique Tanaka, is "something new in the comic medium" and "a 'silent', erotically-charged visual poem, an experimental non-linear story using a palette of iconic ligne clair images." Which means it's a wordless comic spread across 16-panel square grids, with each row marking a shift in perspective or visual direction. Bryan Talbot and Jeff Smith have stepped up to bat for it; maybe worth a look. Interview and preview here, Flash movie version here (for $4.10).

Don Pendleton's The Executioner - Devil's Tools #1 (of 5): Here we have IDW's newest licensed series, and it's got a special funnybook pedigree, in that prose vigilante Mack Bolan (THE EXECUTIONER) is typically cited as a core inspiration for one Frank Castle. This miniseries will take us back to the source, with franchise vet Doug Wojtowicz on the script and one SI. Gallant providing art. Short preview here.

The Complete Terry & the Pirates Vol. 3 (of 6): 1939-1940: And for the old school, IDW also has some $49.99 Milton Caniff this week. Anyone know what happened to their Little Orphan Annie series? I'm itchin' for bootstraps.

Gødland #22: Always a pleasure.

Batman #675: I think this is a 'breather' issue of sorts, taking stock before writer Grant Morrison launches into his Batman R.I.P. storyline next issue, as Final Crisis arrives.

Slowpoke: One Nation, Oh My God!: Being a collection of Jen Sorensen's weekly strip, covering politics and society and so forth. I found this one sitting in the Merchandise section of Diamond's list for the week, along with TwoMorrows' Modern Masters Vol. 16: Mike Allred and something called the "Speed Racer Role Play Helmet," which I'd very much like to turn off the computer and think about now!



A Shape of Things, Part 1 (of 2)

(the following is a bunch of words pertaining to the 2008 New York Comic Con; I took no notes, recorded no interviews, and all "quotes" are paraphrased from memory for the purposes of narrative flow - this is not a news report, so please don't excerpt it as such)



7:15 AM - Across Town From the Train Station:

I should have known it'd be a mistake to bring Gary Panter.

That's the new project from PictureBox, Inc., hence the boldface. My copy had arrived from Amazon on Thursday afternoon; the pre-order rate was a very good $56.00 -- from a $95.00 cover price -- for a 5" x 11" two-volume hardcover slipcased set of art books, 688 deluxe pages in total.

Carried around in a gym bag, it weighs approximately one hundred million pounds. And I hadn't even realized I'd brought the shoulder strap; I was carrying the damned thing with my hands, huffing and spitting my way down city alleys and through the local mall. I couldn't believe the train station didn't have a parking lot the first time I'd traveled by rail, and it got no easier to accept just then. My car was parked in my work spot - I hoped the catalytic converter would still be attached when I got back.

But at least Chris Mautner and I could thrill to the works of Panter, whether on those long train rides or during any down time we might encounter!

We wound up looking at the book for maybe three minutes over the whole trip. My arms still thank me for the trouble.

8:35 AM - Aboard Some Train:

Chris entered the carriage just as I neared the conclusion of Bob Levin's Most Outrageous: The Trials and Trespasses of Dwaine Tinsley and Chester the Molester. I felt silly having written the day before, when I was only halfway through, about how it had "none of the heavy legal briefing" of Levin's prior book. It turns out that the second half of the thing is a step-by-step guide to the criminal trial process, although at least the structure is a lot tighter, with the first half floating around as a cloud of near-isolated chapters on connected topics, primed to compliment the day-by-day action of Part Two. Sort of a keen picture of how seemingly isolated clouds of social, political, legal and personal activity can meet at a certain moment to bring a man to his knees, forcing the days that follow to adopt a heavy crawl.

Speaking of legal hi-jinx, later that day it'd be announced that the Gordon Lee case had been dismissed, thank god. Hopefully it happened in a manner that would prevent the prosecution from simply refiling charges in a few weeks.

Anyway, Chris and I got to talking about our itinerary, which would have to be divided between us quite a lot - he had no less than four panels to cover for Newsarama, and I wasn't even going to be allowed in the show until at least 3:00 PM, since I hadn't bothered to apply for a press pass. What can I say - I didn't plan to 'cover' the event in any formal sense, and I'd feel silly walking around without writing things down or seeking people out or anything. Filing reports from tha floor. Fuck that. It was a nice day, and if I couldn't find some way to pass three hours in the middle of New York Goddamned City on a sunny Spring afternoon, I'd have to be seriously broken inside.

God, New York City. I'd just dreamed of it the other month. I was walking along some rolling, suburban-like green grassy hills, and then suddenly... there it was! Easy as that.

I've never lived in an urban area; I probably romantizice it. I'm still knocked out by the concept of subways, and public transportation that lots of people use. I'm pretty slow. I was something like 24 years old before I wrapped my head around the fact that some people don't have to beg their jobs to make accommodations for them when their car breaks down, at risk of going unemployed or mooching off a family member for weeks. Hell, even trains were something else. I mean, they transport goods and all that, but last year I was telling my brother about how I rode the train to get to MoCCA, and he just stared at me incredulously:

"Trains? People still ride those?!"

12:05 PM - The Hotel Lobby:

I caught Tom Spurgeon's eye from across the room; he knew to look for Harry Potter, Age 19. He must have wondered why Mr. Potter had packed all of Hogwarts' spellbooks into his gym bag, and not cast a floating spell. Because Harry Potter is physically weak.

Tom suggested we go off to 9th street and find a lunch spot that wouldn't make us puke. A nearby Irish sports bar was the answer. Tom and Chris got handsome sandwiches, while I ordered a plate of potato skins, exactly three of them as it turned out. Chris offered me some fries. Tom told us a bunch about Thursday's ICV2.com Graphic Novel Conference (his initial impressions are here), and shared a lot of good anecdotes.

At one point, Chris mentioned he was covering a Legion of Super-Heroes panel, and I noted that Jim Shooter was one of only two official cancellations thus far, along with Howard Zinn. Tom furrowed his brow.

"I like to imagine they're out fighting crime."

12:55 PM - 8th & 51st:

By the time we got back to the hotel our room still wasn't ready, so Chris decided to find a way to get to the Con while I wandered off with his handy maps and a system of post-it notes I'd dotted with arcane symbols the night before, in a futile effort to guide my path. I might as well have kept my head craned up toward the skyscrapers the whole time while shouting "GOSH" every fifteen seconds.

It was fairly easy to make my way down to Times Square. Lots of fellow tourists were out. Guys: those tight black pants don't look nearly as cool when you're wearing an I [heart] New York t-shirt. Lines snaked around the booming, video-spattered block. It was like everyone was waiting to get into the Shrek 3D ride at Universal Studios; I could hear the voice of Eddie Murphy beckoning me to hilarity heaven, but I resisted. I was a real streetwise New York person at heart, detesting all of this family-friendly nonsense (albeit in an academic sense)! I'd been in the city at least three times before, and I'd seen a lot of movies; I had to find something deeper.

Chris had suggested I look for the Kinokuniya Bookstore by Bryant Park, but I had absolutely no luck finding it; I probably should have asked someone for an address. I wound up spending 35 minutes standing in line for Jamba Juice, valuable time well-spent. You know, a lot of attractive women frequent Jamba Juice, and there's a lot of signs hanging about how healthy Jamba Juice is for you. Around minute 20, the guy in front of me turned and spoke in an implacable accent:

"I think having all these gorgeous women around is bad for my health!"

We laughed and almost high-fived, but then I remembered how much I hate the touch of others. As every second pulled me closer to my Strawberry Health Catastrophe, I made certain to plan the next place I needed to be.

2:30 PM - Midtown Comics (Times Square):

I can't say I've been everywhere, but the 40th & 7th location of Midtown Comics is probably the nicest comics shop I've seen in the eastern United States. It's two floors of stuff (on floors two and three of its building), well-organized, oddly roomy, and loaded with diversity of selection. I typically run "the Fanfare/Ponent Mon test" as my rule of thumb as to a store's selection: the more Fanfare/Ponent Mon titles on hand, the 'better' the overall selection is. Midtown passed with flying colors - I even found a copy of The Ice Wanderer, and Fanfare had basically given up on that one in preperation for an October 2008 change-in-distribution relaunch!

As it went, I bought a lot of stuff. I plucked issue #5 (of 5) of Ted Stearn's Fuzz & Pluck in Splitsville off the New Releases rack (I recall buying the brand-new issue #2 of that series when I was in college), and snapped up the elusive Ganges #2 and Matt Broersma's Insomnia #3 (of 3) from the Ignatz rack. They had some very generous alternative pamphlet back-issue bins too - I got the one Palooka-Ville issue I needed to complete by Clyde Fans set, plus the 2001 reprint of #1 (that's the story about Seth getting his ass kicked over his flowing white locks) with the author's introduction telling you how much the comic sucks.

But then, I committed a terrible sin.

I picked up The Drifting Classroom Vol. 11 (of 11), very impressed by how many shelf copies of the series Midtown had. There's maybe one store in 150 miles of my home (a Borders) that carries regular shelf copies of Umezu; I should have considered that it'd be more popular in centers of greater diversity. After all, VIZ keeps saying they're happy with its sales, so it makes sense that some locations would treat it like any other new release.

You never buy new releases of widely-available bookshelf-type comics as soon as you see them when a con's in town. Or visit any major local stores before checking the con floor.

Sure enough, I'd later find a huge stack of the things at the con for 25% off. What's worse, I'd eventually be handed a coupon for 25% off my whole order at a Midtown Comics location. That could have bought me several extra Jamba Juices. Learn from my mistakes, readers!

3:20 PM - The Hotel:

I decided to check into the room, since I needed to change my shirt and dump my Midtown stuff; I kept the bag for later use. The Con was already open to me for twenty minutes, yet I felt little need to hurry up. New York was far too pretty.

The Con was all the way over by 11th and 12th, so I decided to hit Times Square again and walk 42nd Street. God, now there's a tourist attraction! Vice capitol of the nation for decades, home of the highest concentration of porn and trash and exploitation cinema you could imagine. What a place - neon and danger! My father grew up in Queens in the early '60s, so he was close to the stuff; when I was in high school, going to Madison Square Garden with friends, he playfully warned us to stay out of the Red Light district. I think a lot of it was gone, even by then.

But simply being in the same physical space had an effect on me. Soon, my imaginings completely took over my body, and I was actually whisked away to the Deuce in 1980! This... this was the true New York, the source of my displaced nostalgia! I was like Seth, and this was the trophy I was building for myself! The bookshops and theaters were all around me - I could smell the Color Climax coming! A local police officer happened by and I shouted to him!

"Don't you love it here? This is the best place on Earth! This is the best time to be alive!"

He paused, and whipped a jackknife out of his pocket, jamming the tip into my forehead. With a cool lurch, he dragged the blade down the front of my nose, down over my lips, and down, down my chin and neck. I coughed, and blood spurted from my wound into his face, and I laughed, causing further eruption. This was the type of ecstasy I couldn't get on the internet!

At that moment, my phone brought me back to the present from my happy dream. Chris was wondering where the hell I was, since he needed to get to the Oni panel by 5:00 PM. I told him I'd meet him later, and stepped up my pace.

4:45 PM - The Javits Center:

The New York Comic Con was my first 'big' comics convention. I'd been to SPX twice, and MoCCA once, but never a loud, costume-filled 'mainstream' comics convention. Several myths would be dispelled.

I had no trouble getting in, at any time. No wait whatsoever. There was a very healthy mix of genders, and a solid diversity of race. There was no more odor than I'd expect from a ton of people stuffed into a single space. There were a lot of young people of obviously varied interests, although you'd also spot the occasional 50+ year old wearing a Yancy Street Gang sweatshirt.

There was not much in the way of sensory overload. I wouldn't call it cramped, but the show floor was a bit smaller than I'd expected. I've never been to San Diego, which is the gold standard for this type of show, but I kept hearing about how New York was the new 2nd place, so maybe my expectations were out of whack. The presence of non-comics media was obvious, but not overbearing; it was clearly a comics show, with some video game and movie/television stuff tossed in. I'd say manga alone wasn't a big presence, but 'overall J-culture' definitely was. Neko hats were fucking huge.

I spent a while getting a feel for the floor. You've got to grab hold of some logic underlying these things, and let it guide you. Video games are by video games. Retailers are by retailers. Small press by small press, British by British. The big cats lay in the center: Midtown's cage, DC's nerve center. Max Fiumara signing comics under a gigantic All Star Batman (and Robin, the Boy Wonder) banner. One of the appeals of a show like this is that comics is still just small enough that you can walk by a booth during the Final Crisis signing and observe how wizened Grant Morrison looks in person.

Eventually I broke down and picked up a floor map to guide me to my more coveted spots.

5:40 PM - The Vertical Inc. Booth (#1626):

Best show debut #1 (of 2) - Osamu Tezuka's Dororo Vol. 1 (of 3). It's the Tezuka series Vertical is doing before Black Jack, a 1967-68 saga of supernatural swordplay about a young man who's had 48 parts of his body stolen by evil since birth, and the boy thief who's recruited to help make him whole. It spawned a 1969 anime, a 2004 Playstation 2 game (Blood Will Tell), and a prospective trilogy of live-action films, the first of which saw release in 2007. All despite being another of Tezuka's various unfinished series, although that didn't dim Phoenix's acclaim either. I haven't read it yet, but Chris has, and he says "It's... awesome." No reason to doubt it.

5:55 PM - The Bureau International de l'edition française Booth (#1960):

The Con pulled a funny trick and listed every single publisher represented by this group as a separate entity with a single table number, thus fooling me into thinking that L'Association had an actual table all to themselves. Now I'll never realize my dream of kissing Jean-Christophe Menu.

Still, the booth had stacks and stacks of French-language comics piled up for everyone to flip through (or buy, I suppose), including Mathieu Mariolle's & Aurore's Pixie series, which will be among Tokyopop's 2009 effort to expand into full-color translations. Lots of deluxe brochures handed out for free, including L'Association's priceless 2007 English-language(!) catalog, an altogether wonderful compendium of information, history, propaganda and old-fashioned bitching. There's this running joke where they keep taking shots at Futuropolis... I wonder who wrote it? It brought to mind co-founder David B.'s TCJ interview (Issue #275, April 2006), in which he spoke of (fellow co-founder) Menu's Plates-Bandes, a text full of extreme remarks positioned as the opinion of L'Association, despite some founders' disagreement.

Which reminds me - I would kill for an English-language edition of L'Éprouvette, the publisher's three-volume, 1284-page collection of 'radicalized' comics criticism in prose and sequential form. It would also be the least profitable venture in the history of US capitalism, and who wouldn't want a piece of that pie?

6:10 PM - The Fanfare/Ponent Mon Booth (#2343):

Best show debut #2 (of 2) - Hideo Azuma's Disappearance Diary. Winner of the Grand Prize for Manga at the 2005 Japan Media Arts Festival, it's a really very jolly, old-school funny manga account of the dark periods in its author's life, touched by homelessness and alcoholism. Context adds a little zest - Azuma is also the man who popularized the concept of 'lolicon' in manga, from whence anime and Japanese culture at large was affected. I don't think it's actually due out until November or something, and even then... Fanfare/Ponent Mon books are only ever available to a certain extent. And yet, everyone wants them for a reason.

Apropos of nothing, overheard:

"Lot of comic books here. I can't read comic books."

"You read Japanese comic books."

"Yeah, that's different. That's a different style. Other comic books are little boxes with pictures in 'em."

6:30 PM - The IGN.com Theater:

All the panels and most of the special events were held downstairs from the Con floor; I went to the big movie room to catch the MoCCA Presents Ralph Bakshi: Unfiltered presentation. The prior show, a screening of Chris Brandt's Independents: A Guide for the Creative Spirit, was still running, and when Brandt stepped out at the end he revealed that the next program would be a preview of the upcoming The X-Files: I Want to Believe. I then stepped outside the theater, and saw that the Bakshi presentation was not on the list in front of the door. Deciding it must have been cancelled, I left. Apparently, it went on without me.

6:40 PM - India's Edge is India's Fantasy - Shakti Panel (Room 1E15):

I headed over to the second panel Chris was covering. I'm sure at some point Grant Morrison and Elizabeth director Shekhar Kapur were talking about their new MBX project, an online animated sci-fi adaptation of the Mahabharata in four-minute episodes, but by 40 minutes in the panel had transformed entirely into spiritual/philosophical chit-chat, with Morrison deep into another detailing of his theories of the universe as a living being. There were free posters and everything. Maybe if I'd been walking the floor I'd have heard news out of the other, finished panels, like how Bandai Entertainment totally snapped up Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann from ADV. Oh well.

Chris seemed eager to go and type up his panel report -- surely the shaking was enthusiasm! -- so I left him again to head back into the fray.

7:05 PM - The Hot Hot Bargains Section of the Con Floor:

There's nothing I like better than a good bargain bin dive, and the Con offered a lot of chances for that. I've been told that the discounts tend to go up by the last day of a con, in that dealers are eager to blow out the shit they don't want to have to carry back. Maybe I'm crazy (or a bad reporter) (or not a reporter), but it seemed that some prices set at 50% off climbed to only 40% off for the better-attended Saturday. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This was the only part of the Con that really got to my head - I just couldn't keep all the retailers straight, nor could I recall whose bins were filled with what. I could have spent the whole night going through everything. As it was, I found an excellent set of boxes filled with magazines and magazine-sized items; for $2 each, I pulled out Richard Corben's Tales from the Plague (a 1986 edition of Corben's first comic book), a 1979 issue of Marvel Preview (#20) featuring two of Howard Chaykin's Cody Starbuck stories, that 1983 issue of Heavy Metal (Vol. 7 No. 2) with the feature article on the Starstruck stage play, and a 1982 issue of Epic Illustrated (Vol. 1 No. 12) with two early Jon J. Muth stories and the novel sight of Rick Veitch adding painted color to a Basil Wolverton short. Now that's a fucking load of stuff for under $10!

Time passed. I'd barely scratched the surface. Grasping at Vol. 1 of Toshio Maeda's beloved 1988 manga porn classic Adventure Kid (only eight bucks for WWII battles between shirtless American soldiers and '80s Japanese bomber bike gangs in Cyberspace!!), I left to find Chris again.

8:30 PM - The Press Room:

I guess I should have been surprised that I could simply walk into the press room without any authorization, but I somehow wasn't. Maybe I carry that much authority.

Chris seemed ready to jump inside his computer and let his fists do the reporting, so I looked around the room with interest. A woman in tall, glittery pink boots was filing a report, perhaps for Mennonite Footwear Quarterly. A nearby table was the scene of a whole group of new media journalists clicking and clacking out updates while a bold leader of some sort circled around to make sure all the pieces were in place; it was like I was back on the debate team in college (with everyone working and me sitting around)!

I went outside and watched people filing in and out of the theater for Sci-Fi Friday Night - Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who - All New!, which requires no further explanation. Then Chris came out and we left for the shuttle bus. Did I mention the hotel had a shuttle bus? Living large indeed.

10:10 PM - A Mexican Food Chain Near the Hotel:

My burrito had steak and peppers in it. It was good, and I also got a brown bag of chips that actually had the words "CHIPS" and nothing else on it, which is a little like when a character in Love and Rockets is reading a comic titled "COMICS," you know?

10:50 PM - The Hotel Room:

I looked at the Gary Panter book for maybe three minutes, while Chris repeated the magic spells necessary to make his laptop work with the hotel's wireless network. So I put my head down and fell asleep while Chris worked on his reports, by which I mean I went to three dozen parties and met everyone.


(click here for part 2 of this powerful epic)




*I am going to the NYCC for two days, and nobody can stop me unless they shoot me dead, or break my legs, or get me sick, or bruise my eye... damage my car, steal my tickets... anyway, I can't be stopped. Hopefully I'll have an exciting trip report up soon that'll involve something other than my touring the city while the entry line thins out. Fanfare/Ponent Mon & L'Association tables, here I come!

*Also: Bob Levin's Most Outrageous is good. Enough so that I got a copy after work today and I'm already done with over half of it. Much more... traditional(?) than Levin's other works, and none of the heavy legal briefing of The Pirates and the Mouse. Tom and Alan have also mentioned it, but I'll have a longer take soon.


Welcome 2 Comics Journal EZ Access All-Funnies Data Portal!!

*Finally, a page of links on the internet. Click yourself around to relive the magic of those portions of The Comics Journal I was allowed to write, without all the fuss and bother of paper. We won't need paper once we've transcended our corporeal forms! I'm pretty happy with these pieces (especially the one from Issue #276, which is maybe the best of my writings on superhero comics); many thanks to Gary Groth, Dirk Deppey, Michael Dean, Kristy Valenti and everyone else.

More will be added as stuff becomes available.


Here is Greenwood Vol. 1 (The Boys' Club (revised); Issue #267, July 2005)

an essay on the superhero writing of Grant Morrison, Joe Casey and Warren Ellis (Insurgent Activity in the Kingdom of Rust: Writers Updating Superheroes in 2006; Issue #276, June 2006)

Sloth (Sauntering Through the Lands of Wonderful, Awful Dreams; Issue #279, Nov. 2006)

Nog a Dod (untitled capsule review; Issue #279, Nov. 2006)

Tarzan: The Joe Kubert Years Vols. 1-2 (Ripening on the Vine; Issue #282, April 2007)

Wally's World: The Brilliant Life and Tragic Death of Wally Wood, the World's Second-Best Comic Book Artist (untitled capsule review; Issue #282, April 2007)

Octopus Girl Vols. 1-2 (It's OK to Laugh!; Issue #283, May 2007)

Glacial Period (scroll down) (untitled capsule review; Issue #283, May 2007)

Blab! Vol. 17 (At Least My Sweater Hasn't Worn Out; Issue #285, Oct. 2007)

Hickee Vol.3 #3 (untitled capsule review; Issue #286, Nov. 2007)

Interiorae #1-2 (untitled capsule review; Issue #287, Jan. 2008)


On the Ball

*This post is early.


Three Shadows (impressive, recommended First Second book that I thought was due out this week, but I guess not)

RPLC #2 (short reviews of the graphic novel That Salty Air, the manga Dominion: Conflict 1 [No More Noise], the minicomics Magic Hour #1-2 & Magic Hour Sketchbook , and the miniseries collection Holmes)


Criminal Vol. 2 #2

at The Savage Critics.

*Kind of lighter than it's been...


The Drifting Classroom Vol. 11 (of 11): IT ALL ENDS HERE, TRUE BELIEVERS! Could the SHOCKING REVELATION of Vol. 10 possibly be true?! How can THE WHOLE OF JAPAN aid OUR YOUNG HEROES?!? Will any of these kids get home to MOMMY, or at least enjoy THE SMOKY FLAVOR OF HUMAN FLESH again?? Maybe another WICKED HAMMER THROW at least? All that's certain is Kazuo Umezu will be concluding the fuck out of this series, and there's even gonna be a special bonus short story at the end, because manga needs to be 184 or so pages I GUESS!!! In other VIZ news, Naoki Urasawa's (multi Eisner-nominated) Monster hits Vol. 14 of 18.

(and man, New Engineering up for multiple trophies??... that's cool)

Speed Racer: Mach Go Go Go: Movie tie-ins? We've got 'em this week, and none will be more interesting than this $39.95 set of two slipcased hardcovers from DMP, collecting the 700-page whole of Tatsuo Yoshida's 1966 manga accompaniment to the original anime television series, which he also created, produced and directed (under the watch of Hiroshi Sasagawa) for Tatsunoko Production, the studio he co-founded. Note that the manga also supposedly contains uncredited work by 8 Man co-creator Jiro Kuwata, whose '60s Batman work will be the subject of Pantheon's upcoming Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan. That's a really nice price, not that I need to tell you.

Nixon's Pals: A new Image graphic novel from writer Joe Casey and artist Chris Burnham, depicting the struggles of a supervillain parole officer and his many charges. It's $12.99 for 120 b&w pages, some of which will be these.

Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels: Your 'not at all a comic' release for the week - a 272-page study of early 20th century woodcut novels by scholar David A. Beronä. From Abrams, $35.00, intro by Peter Kuper.

Iron Man: Legacy of Doom #1 (of 4): Surely the oddest of Marvel's various attempts to get loads of Iron onto the shelves for movie time, this is the third installment of a David Michelinie/Bob Layton trilogy of stories teaming Iron Man with Dr. Doom; part one hailed from 1981 (The Invincible Iron Man #149-150), and part two from 1989 (#249-250). Ron Lim handles the pencils this time around, with inks by Layton. See here. But if this all sounds a little too contemporary for your tastes, this week will also bring the $99.99 Invincible Iron Man Omnibus, collecting material from Tales of Suspense #39-83 and Tales to Astonish #82.

X-Men: Divided We Stand #1 (of 2): Well, a big storyline just ended. Logical next step? Anthology miniseries. A mere $3.99 will win you mutant tales from the likes of Matt Fraction & Jamie McKelvie, Mike Carey & Brandon Peterson, Skottie Young and more. Enjoy many pages.

Pigeons From Hell #1 (of 4): Huh, it's Joe R. Lansdale adapting a Robert E. Howard story at Dark Horse, with art by Nate Fox. Might be worth a look.

The Boy Who Made Silence #2 (of 12): More quiet.

War is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #2 (of 5): That is a long title. Preview thrills here.

The Programme #10 (of 12): I liked the Senator Joe plot twist a couple issues ago. Click here to see what Peter Milligan & C.P. Smith are up to.

Hellboy Library Edition Vol. 1: Yeah, that famous Mike Mignola creation has been a lot of things, but I don't think it's ever been a deluxe set of 9" x 12" hardcovers, primed to look pretty on bookstore shelves just in time for a little movie tie-in action, and thoughtfully designed to match that The Art of Hellboy tome you've probably already got. A mere $49.95 nets you Seed of Destruction (script by John Byrne, colors by Mark Chiarello) and Wake the Devil (colors by James Sinclair), with the original Robert Bloch & Alan Moore introductions included, and a beefed-up selection of designs & sketches.

American Flagg! Limited Edition Hardcover Book Set: Note that this is not the long (long, long) awaited Dynamic Forces collection of the Howard Chaykin classic; rather, it's a package of late '80s Graphitti Designs hardcover editions of the series' first three storylines (so, issues #1-9). Each set is signed and numbered by Chaykin, and runs $79.00. It's missing the last three issues of the initial overarching megastory, and you'll want to watch out for some dustjacked damage, but keep in mind that the new hardcover is going to have the colors reconstructed via contemporary techniques - this may be a different-looking project than what's soon coming.



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.