Archive for August 14, 2010

Urasawa's Modern Manga Classic

You Can Go Home Again

Anyone who follows the CCW*TV Companion Blog or watches my rants on CCW*TV will not be surprised to read that I have become increasingly disenchanted with the Big 2 comic publishers. Lame “blockbuster” events, rising cover prices, gratuitous deaths and clichéd storytelling are only a few of the problems that currently bother me. That’s not to say there aren’t any mainstream comics that I currently enjoy on a monthly basis. I do. They just seem too few and far between nowadays.

The Sentry Rips Another One!

The escalation of mean spiritedness, bloodshed and misogyny in American comics has become quite tiring. As a result of the persistent problems I’m having with the mainstream superhero books, I have rediscovered a lost love of mine: Manga.

Keeping up with Marvel. DC gets into the gratuitous violence act.

Even though U.S. comics were my introduction to the wonderful art form known as sequential art– Manga soon crept in and overtook my love for most capes and cowls… And I am quite certain that my affinity for anime had something to do with it.

Japanese produced animation has always struck a deep chord with me… Much more so than any old Hanna-Barbera “cartoon” ever could. Was it the seriousness of the subject matter, the captivating action sequences or how the animation cells meshed together so fluidly? If I had to choose between these reasons– I would choose all three.

After watching my first episodes of Battle of the Planets,  Captain Harlock– and eventually Robotech– how the hell could I ever be content to watch Scooby Doo?

In the late 80’s I was a complete, unapologetic Marvel Zombie. I did not care for anything DC offered– nor had my horizons expanded to vast and fertile area of independent comics.  That entire mindset changed one day while I was looking through a friend’s stack of books and came across a comic called Xenon.

♥ My first Manga ♥

The artwork on the cover caught my eye– feeling very familiar to me.  Not because it resembled any of the comics I had been reading but because it looked more like the great anime I had been watching.

Though the cover illustration was in color I soon realized that all the interior pages were in black and white. The concept wasn’t completely foreign to me as I had seen a couple of TMNT comics by this point… But Xenon just felt different from any book I had seen. The artwork was dark and gritty. Backgrounds and cityscapes were drawn with the precision of an architect. It had intricate robotic designs for the hero and the villain’s alter egos. All of this set against the backdrop of a Japanese high school.

Whatever this comic was about didn’t matter to me. All I knew was that I had to read it right away– along with every other issue my friend had collected.

AND THAT’S HOW IT ALL STARTED

Now Being Reprinted in Deluxe Editions

Soon I was adding all kinds of Manga books to my weekly pull list. The more Manga that became available (at the time it was a fairly slow trickle)– the more I wanted to buy. Titles like Appleseed, Ranma ½, Maison Ikkoku, Gunhed, Silent Mobius, Urusei Yatasura, Fist of the North Star and Nausicaa. As well as Ninja High School, The Dirty Pair and Gold Digger– all comics drawn by Americans with a profound influence from Japanese artists and anime.

These books gave me something that American comics couldn’t (or wouldn’t)– huge amounts of imagination. Where regular superhero comics seemed grounded in a reality populated by fantastical and impressive beings– the entire world of Manga seemed gloriously overloaded with the fantastical and the impressive. Each book had its own reality, not a shared one, and I seemed to never tire of discovering new worlds with each new manga I started to read.

Gantz-- Another great Manga

Thanks to the efforts of a growing number of companies like Viz and Dark Horse– Manga became even more predominant on comic shop shelves as the years passed. As anyone with a passing interest in the genre knows, Manga has since exploded far beyond comic specialty stores and now reaches the mainstream via national bookstore chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble.

A while ago Insideman contacted me about writing a Manga column for his Swear All you Like Blog– or maybe even a series of reviews. Whether this column becomes a reality on a regular basis remains to be seen– as life, work (and fun) always have a way of interrupting the best of plans. Still, I went back and forth concerning what topic to write about, what book to review for this post– and finally settled on letting you in on “where I’m coming from” when I am enjoying (and possibly even reviewing) manga.

Giving some background on what this art medium means to me– and the years I’ve been invested in it– may give you a better understanding of any future reviews. I was there almost at the beginning of the Manga industry in America… And to see it grow so vast in the last couple of decades simply amazes me.

Orange Jumpsuit Ninja. Not my favorite by far. Maybe it is yours.

It’s becoming tougher to find great books out there as the industry keeps growing– then contracting– and growing again. With a crowded field of books and various Manga companies starting , suspending or ceasing publication, hopefully I can steer you in the right direction. I want to help you experience some of the best the genre has to offer.

So, thanks Marvel and DC! If it weren’t for your poor attempts at keeping this comic fan satisfied– I may never have rediscovered my long-lost love.

(Besides reading Manga for more than half of his life, Jose Melendez has also been a comic book retailer for almost 18 years. He is the co-host of CCW*TV– where he attempts to make the show somewhat entertaining on a weekly basis– despite the “best efforts” of co-host Elliott who tends to ruin everything with his boring, stale personality. Jose is also the main contributor on the CCW Companion Blog.

His only regret in life is breaking up with a very cute and kind redhead 10 years ago for no good reason. Please learn from this and don’t make the same mistake yourself… Or else alcohol will most likely play a big part in your future lifestyle.)

Spam Hawaii... Book me a can, Danno!

I shouldn’t be surprised by SPAM. We all get enough just by having simple email accounts. You can imagine the type of spam a Blog gets… Even fledgling blogs like this one.

Look how cute! A SPAM iPod!

Word Press does a great job blocking almost all the spam… The fun part? I can still read them before I delete them.

Therefore, I would love to know WHAT in my review for Neil Young’s Greendale Hardcover prompted some spammer to send me this list:

gagged asian woman
real schoolgirls fucked
femdom sissification feminization
men wear bikinis
horny big tit sluts
persian lesbian homepage
free black and blonde galleries
natural big boob pornstars
big womans breasts
maryland strip clubs westminster

The list went on (I decided to spare our most sensitive of readers). Plus, the only link I could maybe use sometime in the future is maryland strip clubs westminster If I were to ever find myself there.

And remember, this email came in direct response to my Greendale review… Which, to my knowledge, had no accounts of men wearing bikinis or women having big breasts anywhere in it.

Thanks, Neil Young.

The book that started it all

Sid the Bunny (Craig Ferguson) always slays me:


HOW ARE THESE DIFFERENT?

What's to compare? Aren't these 2 books just different children of the SAME medium?

Recently, I came across an article entitled MANGA VS COMICSI know. I know... What’s weird– there are a ton of articles just like this out there… All comparing Manga to American Comic Books.

Truth be told, I am not in agreement with most of their content. First off, let’s make this clear– Manga MEANS Comic, okay? Second, why are people bothering to compare these?

Most people in the CCW Nation know me as Mike F. I’m a proudly confessed Manga, Video Game and Comic Book fanatic… And clearly, I have passionate thoughts on these subjects.

Here are statements made from one of the articles mentioned above (I have added a few of my own thoughts as well):

“American comics are all capes.”

WRONG.

“American comics are all about prolonging a dead franchise.”

WRONG.

Everyone knows American comics are all about retconning. (Unless you’re Geoff Johns, of course… But that’s completely different post.)

ANIME LEADS TO MANGA

I watched anime for years– never once venturing into comics. Turned out to be a good thing too. I wouldn’t have had the first clue where to start.

My first ever experience with comics was with a Manga book. And like many people– like the articles I so strongly disagree with now… At the time, I just assumed that American comics were only about superheroes.

A challenging tale that highlights the difference between lust and true love

The first manga I ever read was Chobits– by the 4 female mangakas CLAMP. I loved this unique story about a robotic female (called a persocom) named Chii whose vagina holds her on/off switch. The internal chip is located there so if someone makes love to her– the chip inside turns her off and wipes her memories.

When Hideki– the horniest of horn dogs (the subject of his vast porn collection is a focus in the first few volumes)– discovers a completely wiped Chii in the trash, he can’t believe his good luck and takes her home… Eventually falling in love.

But he doesn’t want to risk the possibility of Chii losing her memories again… So he resigns himself to never having sex with the woman he loves for the rest of his life. It’s a charming story about virginity… And the line between common lust and pure love.

The female artists of CLAMP created a challenging premise that moved me and really made me think. I’d never been exposed to a story like this before. The panel placement, the clever jokes, the stunning artwork. Chobits became an instant favorite of mine and spawned my love for comics. Wanting to experience more, I searched extensively until I found other great Manga titles like Gunsmith Cats and Battle Angel Alita.

And then, again, I was content to stay exactly where I was. Years and years would pass before I would come across an American comic book that would change me forever. That book was WE3–  a small masterpiece written by oft-praised Scottish comic messiah Grant Morrison.

As good as it gets

When I first saw this book on Amazon, I thought, “Hmmm… What in the world could this be about?”

What a joy it was to read– watching 3 captured animals used by the government attempt to escape back home. I literally shouted “Yes!” at the end of the first issue– when WE1 says: “We go home, home now.” Completely arrested by the spirit of the comic’s overall story,  I became hooked on Morrison’s other comics work. This eventually led to my reading Green Lantern, Batman and Superman.

Not too long after that,  I began reading Marvel comics too. By then, I was well into all type of comic book genres.

Which leads me back to my original question: WHY ARE PEOPLE SO INTENT ON COMPARING MANGA TO COMIC BOOKS?

Yes, Marvel and DC comics can get lost in their prolonged continuity and yes, Manga can get ridiculous with its “cute” or KAWAII random sense of humor… But why compare two things that are basically the same? Vertigo, Image– even Marvel’s Icon imprint– publish plenty of non-superhero related comics from such great writers as Brian Vaughn and Ed Brubaker… But no one is foolish enough to say those books aren’t comics.

The current Akira Reprint Series

Japanese comic legend Katshuiro Otomo (creator of AKIRA) has stated he found inspiration in some DC comics… And felt delighted when given the chance to write a short 8-page Batman story in the BATMAN: Black and White limited series.

Even more frustrating: The people commenting on this article all wrote things that proved they were as ignorant as the article’s authors.

My roommate is from Japan and was a comic reader back in the day. She confirmed the similarities for me. She even felt it foolish to compare Manga and American comics– as they are, again, the same thing.

As you can tell, I love the comics of America and Japan. Even France, the UK and other countries have some great titles.

But I feel no need to compare these two genres because really– it’s just wasting my time. Time better spent reading great books like 20th Century Boys or Daredevil and not noticing any difference.

Mike F is a citizen of the CCW*TV Nation– a regular poster on the CCW*TV Companion Blog. He reads comics because he wants to and obviously couldn’t care less if a comic was in color or black and white. While normally we would say a Guest Columnist’s views are exclusively his or her own… We totally agree with everything he’s written.