Saturday, October 28, 2006



(A quick pause in our Europe series of posts!) Fantastic week for manga fans, as Vertical's GINORMOUS edition of Osamu Tezuka's Ode To Kirihito came out! I picked up my copy Tuesday on my lunch break, and am just diving into it this weekend. I first heard about it from Anne at Vertical during Book Expo America, and am really, really pleased to see the finished product in my hands.

The book is THICK and stylishly-designed (yes, an astounding 822 pages of previously unavailable Tezuka), and features a really rad Chip Kidd cover that smartly uses the Japanese-style obi (see the animated GIF above!). Just how big is the book?? Check this out for scale:

Things tipped in the past, hmmm 3 years?, and I feel so fucking lucky. Tezuka is being treated so well and fine by publishers like Viz (with people like editor Ian Robertson's good work) , and especially Vertical. They do his books proud, and getting to read this particular story is a cool change. I hope that it does well and cements the fact that THERE IS STILL SO MUCH in Tezuka's oeuvre that English-speaking audiences have YET TO SEE!

I'm not into plot summary, but it's a mix of existential anxiety, medical thriller, christ allegory(!) and folktale horror. TIME's comics critic said this in his blurb:

“Tezuka turns his comic book mastery to evil in this terrifying examination of moral decay. Fans of Japanese horror both new and old should not miss this shocking single volume that will completely change Tezuka's American reputation as the Japanese Walt Disney. Brutal, depraved and savage, Kirihito will leave you panting like a beaten dog-man!”

I'll post again once I've finished the entire thing (taking my time to enjoy it, so probably at the end of next week!). Has anyone else read it? What did you think??

Edit : Almost unnecessary, but are you shocked to hear that it was incredible?? I finished it Sunday night in about 3 sittings, and the story did not disappoint. The 'Christ' allegory notions that people keep talking up didn't really materialize, and it was much more like The Fugutive (that's right, with Harrison Ford and drug company scandals!) meets BlackJack, but with body horror and existential crises! A VERY good read, with some of the most avant-garde layout and panel work I've seen from Tezuka to date (Yes, even stranger than Phoenix's more experimental moments!)

Edit 2: A good review from The Comics Review, with a 4-page preview at the bottom!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

TRANS-EUROPE EXPRESS 2: Dark Horse and non-crumbling Museums of Terror

While at the Frankfurt Book Fair, I spent all of my down time tromping around the halls visiting publishers' booths, checking out upcoming releases and trying to score free books (snagged about 15 books, including a copy of Epileptic, Jonathan Lethem UK editions and Buddha 3 in softcover!!). It sucked that a few friends/publishers-I-love, like Small Beer Press and Vertical, weren't in attendence, BUT, I did get a chance to visit the Dark Horse booth and talk with them about recent (and upcoming) releases!

First, let it be known: In the past year, Dark Horse has been my favorite US publisher of manga. SURE, other companies have put out some really fantastic stuff this year (Vertical : Buddha, Ode to Kirihito, Viz: Phoenix, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Drifting Classroom, Death Note, ADV: Cromartie High School, TokyoPop: Dragon Head) and jeez, what an amazing time for manga in English these days... But the really cutting edge and scary shit seems to keep coming out from Dark Horse. Shall we review this ? :
  • Lullibies from Hell by Hideshi Hino : After the publishing deluge of both amazing (The Red Snake, Bug Boy, The Living Corpse) and awful books by him, I thought I might be all HINO'd out. However, this collection turned out to be one of the best selections of his short stories to date. For those on the fence about Hino, this is the one to pick up.

  • Octopus Girl by Toru Yamazaki : I don't even know where to begin. The manga is a super smart & sassy parody of shojo, horror and gag manga. Each volume has been just slightly less satisfying that the first, but Octopus Girl is probably my FAVORITE comic that's come out in 2006. MY FAVORITE.

  • School Zone by Kanako Inuki : This ongoing haunted school tale is a little dense (and freaky!), but really satisfying if you take the time to dive in. As out-there as this manga gets, it's one of the best at describing the overwhelming terror of childhood! (Here's an excellent interview with her)

  • Mail by Housui Yamazaki : I've only heard bits and pieces about this one but it seems like a psychological, metaphysical Kairo meets CSI... maybe?

  • Ohikkoshi by Hiroaki Samura : Just got it this weekend - Looks like Blade of the Immortal, except it's about students, dating and slackerdom. The story itself kind of blows and feels confusing and aimless, but at least the art is cool.

  • The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service By Eiji Ohtsuka : Another cool 'horror' entry, this one is sortof an ensemble comedy, except with Buddhist rites, misplace bodies and Veronica Mars-esque private investigations.

The above alone make for a pretty fantastic catalogue... But there's another series that Dark Horse is undertaking that makes them officially, THE BEST PUBLISHER OF 2006 (oh yes, I said it!) :


At FBF, I basically gushed to the marketing dudes about how great this series is going to be. Let me tell you-- SOMEHOW (how EXACTLY does this stuff work?) Dark Horse was slick enough to snap up the rights to the entire Museum of Terror series (Kyoufuku no Hakubutsukan). This is a 15 book (!!!!) set that includes basically ALL of Junji Ito's notable short horror comics, along with the entire Tomie series. In case you're wondering, the scanlation we did (Falling by Junji Ito) should be included in the 5th book. (And YES, like good little moral scanlators, we'll be taking ours down once that book gets released in English!).

When I spoke to the guys at Dark Horse, I told them they deserve medals for putting out the Museum of Terror series, and I asked if they were planning to actually do the whole thing (Fuck, pleeez not another fiasco like the 2 year delay by Viz midway through the publication of Phoenix!). They told me this sobering state of affairs:
They want to put out all 15 volumes, but the first two books are NOT SELLING WELL.

Looking at their release calendar, you can see that while some other series are scheduled through next March 2007, there is no release date for Museum of Terror 4. SHIT!! They were actually quite surprised to hear that everyone WE know loves Junji Ito, is hungry for more comics by him, and that the imageboards are FULL of people passing around bootleg pages of Uzumaki and Gyo. Has anyone else picked up the recent Museum of Terror 1 & 2? Let's do a quick recap on what's come out so far and why the books coming next are the ones we HAVE to make sure get released!

Museum of Terror 1: This collection includes most of the original Tomie stories, and gives a really amazing peek at Junji Ito's earlier art style. The lines are clear, and the characters are depicted in a deceptively simple and beautiful manner. But the story itself is a twisted virus-meets-vengeful ghost tale about a girl (Tomie) that never dies. More than that, she provokes the intense desire and fixation of the men she meets, which invariably ends in them murdering and mutilating her.

It's an amazing manga full of SICK STUFF and the plot and scares are very visceral; The story also hints at and vaguely throws around some gender politics (and gender violence!) in the subtext. With Tomie, Junji Ito doesn't just spin one linear tale, but a sortof MYTHOS around Tomie that unfurls with each chapter. Like, hmmmm-- is she like a parasite that encourages being killed and mutilated as a form of her own propagation? Is she more like a virus that infects and changes to suit the weaknesses of her 'hosts'?

Admittedly, it can get repetitive, but especially with the first volume, it's really effective in a big dose. The last panel of the final story in this volume is SO. FUCKING. CREEPY. I yelped like a scared kitten and just threw the damn thing on the floor.

If you feel like you've seen Tomie around before, it's probably because the now-defunct publisher ComicsOne originally released some of Tomie in a two volume set. Yeah, previous to the Museum of Terror edition, the Tomie comics were VERY out of print, and cost a ridiculous amount to track down secondhand. Like a lot of ComicsOne editions, their printing of Tomie was shoddily translated, edited and the visual touch-up (signs in English, sound effects) were really awful. The company basically (as the rumor goes) packed up shop, stopped paying their bills and disappeared. The pieces and rights were later acquired by DR.Master and some of their more successful stuff got assimilated into the new company's catalogue.

Museum of Terror 2: The SECOND volume is also entirely Tomie stories, but it's mostly previously unpublished stories from when Junji Ito revisited the character in 1999 & 2000. You can feel him really escalating the limits of the Tomie 'mythos' here, with the depravity hitting really nasty levels... Making SAKE out of Tomie's mashed up flesh? Slashing her face over and over with a RAZOR? It gets ugly, but I found it really fascinating to see him draw these stories in his later style-- the more detailed, shakier line style he explored in Uzumaki and his newer comics. I am ready for a new subject after hundreds of pages (and more than a dozen variations) on the Tomie tale, but it's pretty fucking sweet to have the entire story in 2 hefty volumes.

As a final note note, the ordering of the stories in these two volumes reflect Junji Ito's own choice of how he wanted the chapters to be presented.

The next volumes are where the full potential and impact of this undertaking are going to be felt for manga/horror fans. The next 13(whoa!) volumes collect Junji Ito's SHORT STORIES, like those in the very out-of-print, funky-ass collection Flesh-Colored Horror, which was also doomed to be originally published by ComicsOne and include one of my favorite horror stories ever, his Dying Young.

Not to shill so hard for one specific publisher-- and we DO buy and support quality titles from all the major and indie publishers! -- but this is a series that NEEDS support so that you can have one whole shelf of your dorky comic bookcase (you have one, DON'T LIE!) filled with about 5000 pages of JUNJI ITO!

As a final note in this epic missive (and we're only at installment 2 out of 7!), I did come in contact with the holy grail of new(ish)horror manga at the Shogakukan booth in the Japanese area of the book fair: Junji Ito's newest book, Hellstar LRemina (地獄星レミナ)!! I tried (oh did I try) to talk their guy out of it, even offered him 10 euro for it! But I did get my eyes on it and the story looks FUCKING CRAZY. I've heard some mediocre things here and there in reviews, but it looks like this story takes a sharp twist for the SF and displays Ito's LOVECRAFTIAN impulses FULLY (moreso than even Uzumaki's nutzoid ending). I CAN'T WAIT TO BUY THIS (special ordering it from the Kinokuniya in SF this weekend). AWESOME MANGA ROLL CALL: female protaganoist, CRUCIFICTIONS in the STREET, PLANETS EATING PLANETS, HELL ON EARTH and COLLAPSING QUASARS causing LYNCH MOBS to run amok. FUCK YES! I'll post more once we get our hands on this...

NEXT UP: Trans-Europe Express 3: A preponderance of Maruo!

Edit (10/27) : I've since found a few good links about the stuff we talked about in this post. Check out this review of Hino's Lullabies from Hell and their take on Museum of Terror Volume 1. Also, Scott at AICN did a line by line comparison of the Dark Horse vs. ComicsOne editions of Tomie. Very interesting stuff!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

TRANS-EUROPE EXPRESS 1: Things we recognize, but this time in GERMAN!

This is the first installment of a series of posts about comics and manga in Europe (mainly focusing on time spent in Germany earlier this month). This post is light on thoughts and impressions, and heavy on photographs, focusing on U.S. comics (both indie and mainstream) and Japanese manga in translation!

Being my first time in Europe, the thing that struck me most was that comics were mostly invisible in Dublin, while manga and comics seemed to really pervade German book stores, train stations and corner shops. I did a bit of searching, but I only managed to track down one shop carrying comics in Dublin (Downtown, I spotted the Irish incarnation of the corporate, collector and toy-centric Forbidden Planet -- yuck).

This was simply not the case in Berlin and Frankfurt, and MAN! it really seemed (to my fresh American eyes) that Germany has a scene quite comparable to that of the States. In other words:

I hope to write more about this in the next few posts, but even within a few minutes of checking the manga section at a small Berlin bookstore I saw, "HOLY SHIT-- they've already published NANA up to volume 10? And both MAIL and DRAGON HEAD have already been released in full over here??"

Please conside the following photographic evidence:

This was one of a number of this kind of German magazine, focusing on J-Rock, Visual Kei (it's still around?!) and Gothic Lolita trends, along with street fashion pics a la Fruits.

So recursive! Japanese manga Adolf and Barefoot Gen, regarding the events of WWII... translated into German!!

A Yoshihiro Tatsumi story translated and published in the awesome comics magazine, Strapazin

This was the TokyoPop booth at Frankfurt Book Fair; And look! You can just barely see the German edition of Death Note 1, in the lower right hand corner!

On the indie comics scene, it appears that a few German publishers (mostly dominated by the incredible Reprodukt) are handling the majority of translations and publication of the entire breadth of the Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, Slave Labor Graphics, Pantheon and First Second catalogues.

Caricature by Daniel Clowes, Get A Life by Dupuy & Berberian, etc!

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (just look at that binding and gold inlay!)

More releases on the German indie comics front, but where is Johnny Ryan's stuff?

What an awesome surprise! Our buddy Derek's Same Difference in translation

A tale of Asian-American youth... but, something seems off here!

Our man Derek Kirk Kim, internationally-published playboy extraordinaire!

Not comics, but I was supremely geeked to find Philip K. Dick's Martian Time-Slip...

...and one of my all-time favories Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (In Germany, Dick gets his own shelf!)

Last but not least, the mainstream comics get translated too. All-Star Batman asks, "What was that, JOCKO?"

Why does this look MORE like a pedophilic nightmare scene in German?

Kindly eyes of the Übermensch, All-Star Superman

LOIS, NEIN!!!!!! (best panel ever?)

Part two of Trans-Euopre Express coming this weekend!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

TRANS-EUROPE EXPRESS: an introduction

Once again, a month passed without an update (shit!). But this time, we have a good excuse!

I (Ryan) just returned from a 2 week work trip to Europe. I spent a week in Dublin, a few days in Berlin, and the rest of the time at the Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF) working my company's booth. FBF is the world's biggest book fair, and publishers from everywhere come to make book deals, sell foreign rights and shill their lastest releases.

During the trip, and especially during my down time walking the floor of FBF, I came across a whole slew of crazy, surprising and awesome comics shit. I'll be putting up all this random stuff (and lots of pics and movies) in a series of posts over the next week. They will include (dun dun DUN):

1. Things we recognize, but this time in GERMAN!
2. Dark Horse and non-crumbling Museums of Terror
3. A preponderance of Maruo
4. Jeff Smith and his Bone in deutsch
5. German gem, Insekt by Sascha Hommer
6. "Judith Park is the most famous manga-ka in Germany"
7. German cosplay and the international power of shojo

Look for the first post at the beginning of this week!