Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Just wanted to share that I recently was invited to take part in a roundtable series of essays on The Comics Journal's column, The Hooded Utilitarian, which is an outpost for comics critic Noah Berlatsky (and a slew of guest contributors) to talk seriously about comics.

The roundtable was called "Komikusu: Selling Awesome Manga" and was focused around "indie manga"-- what it is, the challenges of finding a readership, and how to get more people turned onto the quirkier and underground titles out there.

Other folks included were:
My contribution, "Indie is as indie does" meanders a lot and doesn't quite make its points very clearly, but I tried to tackle the history of manga released in the states and how it has been positioned via genre/publisher. And also the idea that a title being referred to as "indie" in the States often has little to do with how it was originally published/received in Japan. Or something? Give it a read and tell me what you think!

I encourage you guys to check out the entire roundtable when you have some free time!

Friday, June 25, 2010


A few months ago in Paris, an interesting exhibit opened featuring original comic pages and paintings from a fantastic line-up of some of my favorite artists. Running from April 15 until May 22, the exhibit, Underground & Secret Manga, featured work by Yoshikazu Ebisu, Usamaru Furuya, Kanako Inuki, Suehiro Maruo, Junko Mizuno, and Toru Terada.

More details on the exhibit are on this post on the Hattenba Production blog. Hattennba Productions appears to be taking on an interesting role of advocacy that I haven't really seen before, doing outreach from Japan to other countries in English (and Spanish, French, etc) about their stable of cartoonists. Right now, they are promoting Garo alums and influential underground manga artists Yoshikazu Ebisu, Takashi Nemoto, and Issei Sagawa.

This is a pretty exciting idea, and I wonder who in the States is already in touch with them? I can imagine with Hattenba providing the support and making deals/coordination easier, it could theoretically be possible to have a show like this in New York or at San Francisco's SUPERFROG Gallery space in the New People center. --For folks that have been to visit, SUPERFROG is a fantastic space for interesting shows but their programming and curation to date has been really weak. Loosely themed and sorta uncontemporary group shows? Yoshitaka Amano overprized day-glo paintings? They seem to not really have an idea what they want to do with the space, and it seems to be months passing before new exhibits go up. In lieu of every show they've done to date, I'd have loved to see an exhibit like this one in Paris made to happen in San Francisco-- along with about a dozen other ideas for shows I have (What I'm Saying Is: HIRE ME TO CURATE THAT THING, PLZ)???

Anyway, I'll stop with my self-absorbed mild rant and get back to the "Deichu ni Hasu" exhibit; here are some photographs from the Hattenba blog and the gallery's site:

The Manga we know today is as much a child of the Japanese artistic tradition as of the trauma of the War and the atom bomb. Its first master was Tezuka and its first hero Astroboy, a robot-child created by a scientist rendered inconsolable by the loss of his son. Astroboy’s begetter went on to construct the girl robot Uran (short for Uranium) and a second boy, Cobalt (another metal used for making atomic bombs): these were machine children endowed with superpowers, destined to save humanity and bearing the same names as the radioactive substances that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki...

Unique in our time, Manga has become a culture, a world and an industry whose stories and characters appear in the print media, films, video games and tie-ins. It also represents a resource pool many contemporary artists have no qualms about exploiting.

The feudal world, science-fiction and everyday life, cyborgs, magical creatures and perfectly ordinary characters, animal impulses, kitsch heroism and sentimentality: beyond the conventional codes of the types of Manga targeting
specific readerships – Shounen for boys, Shoujo for girls, Seinen for adults –there also exist unclassifiable experimental books hinging more on deep experience than on mere entertainment. Whether Manga’s critics like it or not, these books are «dangerous» in that they represent a host of thresholds, doorways and channels leading to visionary, nightmarish, grotesque worlds whose common characteristic seems to be the absorption of those who look into them.

Yoshikazu Ebisu, Usamaru Furuya, Kanako Inuki, Suehiro Maruo, Junko Mizuno and Toru Terada: it is to these dedicated practitioners of the draughtsman’s art that this exhibition is devoted.
- David Rosenberg, curator of show

While the exhibit features a number of cartoonists we dig, I wanted to specifically highlight the works of Yoshikazu Ebisu. I admit to not knowing a ton about the artist beyond what Fred Schodt wrote about him in Dreamland Japan, and his short bio from the back of Comics Underground Japan. He seems like a fascinating dude, who didn't start drawing manga until his 40s, publishing a number of short comics in Garo during the 80s and 90s about the hellish life of white-collar drones.

Two of those comic, "Hell's Angel" (Jigoku no Tenshi) and "It's Alright If You Don't Understand (Wakaranakutee mo Daijoubu) were published in the 90s in Comics Underground Japan. "Hell's Angel" is the first comic in that anthology, and sets a darkly satirical tone for the tome as it follows a nightmarish, neverending commute home by a generic every(salary)man.

The soulless tedium and mechanized alienation of Japan's corporate culture is a recurring theme in Ebisu's witty and scratchy depictions. He did a whole run of salaryman comics, one of which (Salaryman From Hell) was scanlated by our friend Rizzah over at Wanted: Cheap Manga.

For forks looking for more on Yoshizaku Ebisu, please check out his personal website, and the three pages from Dreamland Japan that Fred Schodt dedicated to his works.

Here are more fantastic pieces by Yoshikazu Ebisu from the exhibit:

And here is the man himself, Ebisu!

Monday, June 14, 2010


My friend Moni posted on Twitter some rad apparel news. It seems that our man Shintaro Kago has joined the ranks of other creators (most notably, Uncle Umezz) by being honored with designer T-Shirts by BEAMS.

The first Kago shirt (made in collaboration with the design studio whiteFUCTORY, which appears to also be doing a shirt with VICE. The shirt is about ¥5,600 and only available at their shop and online for folks living in Japan. You can check it out on their site. Looking forward to more designs in the future?

(For other shirts designs, check out the "BEAMS" label)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


Hope everyone is enjoying the full-on appearance of Summer (in the Norther Hemisphere, at least). I just got back from a work trip to New York, followed by a short but rad weekend of hanging out. The theme of this trip ended up being "The Internet... COMES ALIVE!" as I got to meet and convert 4 different online friends into IRL friends; It's always a weird experience at first, but a total pleasure when it goes smoothly... Thanks to newly-IRL folks Moni, y16o, Matt, and gea* for the great times hanging out!

So, what else have I been up to lately? Aside from slacking on Same Hat posts, and working on some promo materials for Last Gasp's Comic-Con booth, you may have heard that I put out a new zine with a (ahem) particular focus. That's right, cartoonist Michael DeForge and I collaborated on a 64 page Lady Gaga fanzine called PRISON FOR BITCHES!

The idea for the zine came about the day after the video for Telephone debuted, and the entire book went from drunken (Was I drunk? I must have been drunk.) email thread with Michael to printed book in under 7 weeks. The zine went on sale at Toronto Comics Art Festival last month, and is AVAILABLE NOW via our site: Kudos go to contributor Tony T for having the foresight to buy that domain (and while we were watching Telephone that night, haha.

You may be scratching your head, and if so that's fine and understandable. The new zine is a one-time deal, a proper fanzine in the style of fanzines I used to read in the 90s. The whole thing is the size of a 7" record, and was xeroxed and hand-stapled. It features over 35 contributors(!!) and 64 pages (including a 12pg color insert) of fan art, a Hegellian deconstruction of Gaga;s lyrics, comic strips, a live report, photos of Gaga cosplay in Kobe, and other nonsense.

The artists included are an amazing batch of most all of our current favorite working cartoonists and printmakers, including Johnny Ryan, Michael Kupperman, Hellen Jo, Lisa Hanawalt, the Wowee Zonk crew, Saicoink, Makkinoso, Nick Gazin, Elio, Derek Yu, Angie Wang, HARVEYJAMES, Lala Albert, and tons more!

If you wanna see more, check out this 25 page free preview:

And if you really wanna see our zine in its proper form, you can buy it using Paypal/Checkout through the site. It was recently written up on Robot6 and the SF Weekly, which were big surprises and quite flattering for me & Michael.

Anyway, that same weekend in Toronto, I was on a TCAF panel titled, "Indie Comics Japan: Manga Outside of the Mainstream". The other panel members included's manga maven Deb Aoki, PictureBox's head honcho Dan Nadel, D&Q translator for Tatsumi Jocelyne Allen, and Udon's Erik Ko-- and was moderated by The Beguiling/'s Chris Butcher.

I don't remember feeling like I said anything super-insightful that day, but if you want to read a great recap of the conversation please see Deb's great report on

Another "Early Manga Days" essay (and pics from Tokyo) coming in the next day or two!