Wednesday, January 02, 2008


I always end up posting my two cents like 3 months after the fact (Frankfurt Book Fair 2007 pictures, anyone?), so I decided to try and start my 2007 round-up before 2007 is officially over (shocking, I know). Missed the end of the year by a few days, but here we go!

On the business side, 2007 was another massive year for the growth of manga publishing in the US. Other blogs have spent more time on analysis (check MangaBlog for links), but here are a few trends that hit me:

* Manga cross-pollination occurs (the manga singularity, if you will) as Megatokyo becomes the first OEL title to get licensed for a Japanese release, by Kodansha. Based on thing I've heard about the state of the manga scene in Japan (not good and trending down), more Japanese publishers will be looking at English properties in 2008.

* Ahead of its time manga gets a second chance, as we get re-releases of Uzumaki, Gyo, Tekkon Kinkreet, and Parasyte. These were all titles I'd already read and loved the first time around, but it's been satisfying to see them on people's radars. So when do we get our Short Cuts, A A', and Domu "Omnibus Editions"? Hell, is Pulp Magazine 2.0 coming next?

* Not much manga that really appeals to me came out in 2007. Despite having blitzed through stacks of manga this past year, I had a hell of a time coming up with 10 entries of "favorite" books. Looking at just the first half of releases scheduled for next year (see the "most anticipated" list below), it sounds like 2008 will blow this one out of the water!

(all lists in no particular order):

+ Phoenix: Sun by Osamu Tezuka (Viz).
At this point, telling manga fans that Tezuka's comics are amazing is like telling John Hammond's grandson Timmy that the Jurassic Period was a pretty chill time for dinosaurs (Hey-O!) Basically what I mean is: YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS ALREADY (yeah, you loved that comparison, admit it!). The Sun story was a phenomincal last entry in the Phoenix series, but it inevitably left wondering if and how Tezuka would have converged the timelines if he'd lived longer and been able to pen an ending to his masterpiece. Oh yeah, and Phoenix officially made me tear up more than Adolf did. If you haven't read any of the Phoenix series yet, please turn in your manga cred at the front desk.

MW was also totally sick and rad, but it's not fair to crowd out a top ten with all Tezuka, even if he deserves it.

+ Monster #9 by Naoki Urasawa (Viz).
THIS BOOK WAS SO STRESSFUL. It sounds moronic, but I actually avoided picking up Monster for the longest time because of the "MONSTER" logo with the badass adventurer-looking sword for a T; Now it's one of my absolute favorite current series. Any volume that came out in 2007 was great, but #9 was the one that gave me the most WHOAAAs, and is chock full of twists and turns. Can't wait to read more in 2008 (and kudos again to new editor Kit for taking the reigns on this series).

+ Dragon Head #7 by Minetaro Mochizuki (Tokyopop).
Dragon Head is one of the best current horror series (manga, indie comic or otherwise), and even then it feels like something different is at work with this one. I'm hoping that the last two books don't disappoint, but either way it's been an eerie, troubling read so far. This volume features the most disturbing use of simple black pages I've ever seen in comics, and stoked the Lovecraftian fanboy in me.

+ Parasyte #1-2 by Hitoshi Iwaki (Del Rey).
I remember loving Parasyte way back when I read it in Mixx Magazine in the mid-90s. Parasye was a fantastic choice for reissue and deserves a large audience of new readers. The story and art are famliar and safely forumulaic, but only up to a point-- there's an extra edge of ruthlessness and family tension and poignancy that make for a great SF action title. And on top of that, it's rad to get the chance to fill in the gaps when my Mixx subscription ran out back in junior high!

+ Andromeda Stories #1-2 by Keiko Takemiya (Vertical).
To Terra was the Takemiya book to get most of the Shojo revival praise heaped on it, and it deserved much of that for it's groundbreaking layouts and formal storytelling innovations. But for some reason, I just couldn't get into the story. Andromeda Stories was my favorite of the two Vertical releases by Takemiya, and I fell in love with the clockwork body snatchers and space opera storytelling she employs. Now for Vertical to start releasing Moto Hagio (pleeeeze?!)

+ Presents #1 by Kanako Inuki (CMX).
2007 was a wimpy year for new horror series, with lots of clunkers like Alive and Variante tricking me into buying them and then being disappointed. I was pleasantly surprised with Inuki's collection of gross but lovingly-depicted and paced horror tales. Despite a semi-cute gloss on her art, Inuki's line work is deft and effective for delivering her gross-out moments and zinger endings. The book is definitely flawed and sortof limited in scope, but knowing from the start what I was getting into (a 3-book series of collected, themetically-linked short stories that won't be cancelled mid-run) felt good. Here's hoping she can manage to keep up the good parts of this book over the next two collections!

+ Drifting Classroom #6 by Kazuo Umezu (Viz).
It's no secret that I love Umezu's Drifting Classroom, and past a certain point choosing a specific volume to single out doesn't really make much sense. Volume 6 marked the halfway point of the series, with no sign of slowing down. Plague outbreaks, Lord of the Flies infighting-meets-spontaneous anarchist allignment among children, mummies, intertemporal Oedipal communication and a flash flood that knocks someone's HEAD OFF! What the fuck else can I say about this treasure chest of screaming children?

+ Tekkon Kinkreet by Taiyo Matsumoto (Viz).
Another reissue, but this one of an out of print and semi-fragmented series by Taiyo Matsumoto (who remains tragically underpublished in English, for God's sake). I had read bits of pieces of the serialized Black & White release in Pulp Magazine, but something just feels right about having an oversized edition (with posters, splash pages and color chapter openings intact!) of this series out there. Kudos to Viz for sparing no expense and giving this one the "Vertical treatment" it deserved. Read this or die a lame, uneducated manga nerd.

+ Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma (ADV).
I sortof surprised myself by putting this on here, but Azumanga Daioh is one of those series that I dig when I read it, but before the Omnibus release would have never thought to buy it. Guess what happense when you sit down and read 600 pages of hilarious (but occasionally hit or miss) guilty pleasure yon-koma strips? YOU GET A BIG, SATSIFIED GOOFY GRIN ON YOUR FACE.

+ New Engineering by Yuichi Yokoyama
This book has been given barely any attention in the mangasphere, and I can totally understand why... The pages of New Engineering are as dense and befuddling as Chris Ware's most masturbatory layouts, and it was the first manga license from the experimental arty nerds that put out Brian Chippendale. It's definitely not your typical manga experience, but when I finally sat down and pored over the book I found it to be a hilarious and futuristic piece of work (while being about construction and hand-to-hand combat... wtf?). It's like brain cartooning 3.0, and definitely would be up the alley of anyone enjoying the experimental Kago strips we've been hosting all year.


+ I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason (Fantagraphics).
Any comic with time-traveling Adolf Hitler as a prominent supporting character is a win in my book. Last year I started tracking down all of the Fantagraphics collections of Jason's work, and he's my poignant comic darling among the venerable L'Association cartoonists. Unlike many of his wordless, predominantly humous books, I Killed Adolf Hitler is a fully-realized graphic novel that got me misty at the end. The time paradoxes and assasination plots are just window dressing for a lovely but bitter tale about loving someone at the wrong moment. Whatever that means-- a must read from 2007!

+ Bluefuzz the Hero by Jesse Reklaw (Self-published).
I posted previously about this fantastic piece of work by cartoonist Reklaw, which was limited to only 100 copies and features a hand-painted wallpaper sample for a cover. Like the mentally challenged but nobler little brother of Dungeon, Bluefuzz sets the bar scarily high for what kind of story a minicomic can pull off. The interspersed color paintings of Bluefuzz's "great deeds" are icing on the cake.

+ The Spoily Brats by Michael Kupperman (Harper Collins).
Not a comic release per se, in a scampy bit of marketing savvy Harper Collins managed to contract Michael Kupperman to do a serial comic for their softcover reprints of the Lemoney Snicket books. Kupperman (famous for Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Snake & Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret and strips in The Believer) is America' funniest cartoonist (sorry Johnny, you are a close second!), and you can see he takes dorky pleasure in this old timey serials about child detectives tracking a masked crime boss. Three books have been released so far, with more on the way in 2008!

+ Omega the Unknown by Jonathan Lethem/Farel Dalrymple (Marvel).
I was sort of dubious about science fiction-turned-literary Jonathan Lethem slumming as a comic writer for Marvel, despite being a big fan of his early books. While it took me a few issues to fully wrap my head around what the fuck was going on with the nested daydreams and robots in this tale, in the third issue Omega starts its mad dash (both in story, art-- and coloring, by Paul Hornschemeier!); It's the only Marvel title I've read in years, and I'm all about this book in 2008.

+ Do Not Disturb My Waking Dream by Laura Park (Self-published).
I heard about Chicago cartoonist Laura Park via jam comics posted on Julia Wertz's Fart Party and their short but sweet collaboration in Papercutter #6 (Laura also did the color for Julia's awesome debut Fart Party collection!). Her minicomic collection is part sketches and part strips that hint at longer form storytelling. Aside from have a sweet (but not saccharine) sense of humor, DNDMKD shows off Laura's warm and incredibly rich draftsman0like style. She is a real talent to watch, and it'd be a major gaff for the indie scene if someone doesn't sign her to do a book in 2008.

Dungeon Parade, Vol. 2: Day of the Toads by Joann Sfar/Lewis Trondheim (NBM).
Sfar & Trondheim's Dungeon series in quite possibly the funniest, best set of comics I've ever read-- up there with Jeff Smith's Bone and Tezuka's adventure comics in terms of a hilarious, sprawling world that you'd be kindof scared to actually visit. Any year with an addition to the Dungeon series in English is a good one, and Day of the Toads is a perfect addition. I met NBM's publisher in Frankfurt this year, and he promised at least a few more titles in the coming months. If you're feeling lost, start with Dungeon Zenith 1: Duckheart and then run with them.

+ The Blot by Tom Neely (i.w.d.y.).
My awesome girlfriend sought this self-published debut book out, and pushed me to check it out. I was initially put off when flipping through The Blot by author Tom Neely's gnarly depiction of naked bodies, but I'm glad I recently took the time to digest this anquished tale. The Blot is nearly without dialogue and could be a fast read, but the ontological threat of the roving ink blot mixed with the interpersonal dynamics make for a memorable reading experience (whoa, that was a mouthfull)-- and from a debut, non-Clowes/Ware cartoonist even. Also worth noting that for a self-published title, the book production is on par with a high-quality release from D&Q or Fantagraphics.

It Rhymes With Lust by Arnold Drake/Leslie Waller/Matt Baker (Dark Horse).
I'm surprised that the reprint of It Rhymes With Lust didn't make it onto more people's radar this year. The title is noted as the first modern "graphic novel," but is more like a proto-comic book a la the New Direction books put out by EC after getting the Comics Code smackdown in the mid-1950s. ITWL was first published in 1950 and lovingly reprinted this year by Dark Horse. This western tale about a power-hungry steel baron named Rust was a real pleasure to revisit. Unfortunately, authors Arnold Drake (writer of the original Doom Patrol) and Leslie Waller (noir and pulp fiction writer) both died in March, within a few weeks of eachother, and this book's release!

+ All-Star Superman Vol. 1 by Grant Morrison/Frank Quietly (DC).
If you read any mainstream comics, you probably heard about this book-- coupling Morrison's genre-fucking self-aware Superman ribbing with Quietly's almost disturbingly cleanly inked & colored art. After relentlessly teasing my friend Anthony (Morrison fanboy extraordinaire!) over the gaylord cover, I finally sat down and gave this series a read. Fuck me, it's actually both hilarious and relevant-- Who would've known?

+ Unlovable #5 by Esther Pearl Watson (Self-published).
Esther Pearl Watson (and partner Mark Todd) are the deserving king and queen of the zine and minis academy, and continue to keep their pet projects and releases exciting and fresh. The newest installment of Watson's ridiculous tales of Tammy, Unlovable #5, doesn't let up--- documenting boogies, breakouts and high school yearbook anguish. I heartily recommend reading all five minis, and then tracking down the rest of the Tammy strips in Bust Magazine. I wish I was talented enough to draw as ugly as her (no, seriously-- It's a rare skill!).

+ Good Bye and Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (Drawn & Quarterly).
Drawn & Quarterly is finally putting out the long-awaited third installment of their series of Tatsumi retrospectives. This book is presumably edited again by Adrian Tomine, and Frederik Schodt told me that he'll be penning the introduction this time around.

+ Dororo by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical).
2008 is the year that Vertical is bringing it on, Tezuka-wise. Right after a live action adaptation of Dororo came out in Japan, Vertical is pouncing with a 3-volume set. A spooky adventure story about a man fighting Japanese folklore demons to regain his stolen limbs and organs, these books are gonna be the shit. I also learned that these covers actually feature the work of NEW art director Peter Mendelsund (and not Chip Kidd)-- nice work Peter!

+ Funeral of the Heart by Leah Hayes (Fantagraphics).
I've only seen Leah's scratchwork art online and in a few preview pages here and there, but I have a strong feeling Funeral of the Heart is gonna be a quiet pleasure in the first half of 2008. Will it be sortof emo? Will it be akin to Gorey or T. Ott or maybe Vanessa Davis? I can't wait to find out.

+ Doom Patrol Vol. 6 by Grant Morrison and folks (DC).
Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol is another series that I had been blissfully unaware of, and owe Alice and Anthony for showing me the light. I'm still working on the third collection, but the fifth collection has been out for a while now. Finally, the last collection will be released in 2 weeks-- answering some of the (apparently massive) cliffhangers from volume 5 and wrapping up the series. I'm willing to wager it ends with a metafictional mindfuck blowout?

+ Bat-Manga: The Secret History of Batman in Japan, edited by Chip Kidd (Pantheon).
I don't know what to say about this one. Translated by my buddy Anne Ishii (ex-Vertical), this collection features little-known Batman-meets-manga tales created by the Japanese in the late-1960s. How can you say no to that?

+ The Number by T. Ott (Fantagraphics).
Hi-five Fantagraphics! They're bringing us a new feature-length T. Ott graphic novel. I guess since he doesn't have any dialogue in his stories to translate, the production work for these books should be easy, right? So put this thing out sooner, please. THANKS.

+ Tales Designed to Thrizzle #4 by Michael Kupperman (Fantagraphics).
This book is not scheduled anywhere (and was originally due in Fall 2007), but I have high hopes for Kupperman's next funnybook. He took a pitstop to work on animated short for Saturday Night Live's TV Funhouse, so hopefully homeboy has lined his pockets and will deliver the goods soon. Not like I should complain, having the Spoily Brats serial to look forward to but...

+ The final volumes of Drifting Classroom, Dragon Head and Phoenix (Viz, Tokyopop, Viz).
It's gonna be a sad day for me when there's no more volumes of these series to look forward to on new comics' day. But all good things must come to an end, and I can't wait to see how the post-apocalyptic Drifting Classroom and Dragon Head stories spend their final moments; As for Phoenix, my curiosity is totally piqued for Tezuka's early Shojo-style takes on his lifelong Phoenix arch-myth.

+ Debut graphic novel by Anthony Wu!
I've seen inked pages for our buddy Anthony's debut graphic novel and they seriously knocked me on my ass. Details are not yet to be announced publically, but after being chosen as one of Tokyopop's Rising Stars of Manga in 2006, he's now getting his chance to tell a longer story. This kid is gonna be famous, believe you me!

+ Untitled graphic novel by Hellen Jo!
The same goes for unstoppable Bay Area cartoonist maestro Hellen Jo's debut graphic novel. Hellen's storytelling in recent works has grown to match her rampant linework prowess. I've seen the first chapter of her comic and believe me that the book is gonna be an amazing treat (and scoop up hella awards, no joke). Like 2007, I'm sure she'll be peppering 2008 with other one-off pieces, gallery shows and projects, including a Krang (yes, from TMNT) to die for in Electric Ant #1, and a killer accompanying illustration for my GF's newest short story.

+ The Complete Black Jack by Osamu Tezuka (Vertical)
The Holy Grail of manga releases. Vertical begins their deluxe 12-volume release of the entire Black Jack series this coming Fall. Manga fans can die and go to heaven after this one.

+ Hitting up NYCC 2007 with Evan.
My trip with Evan in the middle of freaking winter to New York Comic Con. We hung out with our buddy Nate, met Stephen from Ponent Mon and Auntie Brigid from MangaBlog, did drunken Karaoke with Eric and Michelle from Giant Robot, watched the oscars with Anne, and I got Jim Steranko to sign a nude Bat-Woman poster for my GF.

+ Tabling at APE2007 with the Bang Gang.
Highlights of our second year tabling with friend included our booklet (and the non-controversy it wrought), selling The Bible comic, and buying more minis and zines than one man should own. Also, lots of late nights at Kinkos and endless stapling alongside other dorks. I can't wait for APE 2008 (being held this year in early November).

+ Book fairs are for nerds (and for awesome).
I was able to attend two major fairs this year! Here are the details I remember:
BookExpo America in New York: Hangover vomiting on 34th st., superstar manga nerd karaoke party with Ed Chavez, Kit Fox, Erin and Anne. Lots of free comics and hanging out with Kelly Link
Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany: Sascha Hommer and the REPRODUKT crew, gallery exhibits of Catalonian comics (including a rare "strip" by Picasso), eating indian with Max and the Last Gasp folks, and then talking manga and japan over burgers with my old friend Ben.

+ Meeting the manga master, Fred Schodt.
Thanks to Jenn and the Asian Art Museum's great Tezuka Exhibit all summer, I had the opportunity to first hear Fred Schodt give a talk, then meet and chat with him, and finally interview Fred over coffee for our zine last month. I would have never guessed I'd have the pleasure!

+ Making a zine with our friends.
We took the plunge to finally start on the zine I've been planning for a while, and were surpremely excited by the outporing of talent for our rinky-dink first attempt at a zine. Making comics and zines is the ideal way to make cool friends, and we don't deserve the caliber of content we got. I guess this means we have to actually print it soon?

+ Our secret translation project coming to fruition.
We're in the weeds right now, working out butts off every weekend on the project, but it's been a real pleasure seeing how a smart publisher with ambitious ideas about the types of manga that can sell for English audiences gets things done. We won't be posting about this again for a few months, but I think readers of this blog will be happy come next summer... JUST SAYING.

Growing the readership of this blog.
This post spiraled into a meandering, self-congratulaty mess, but Evan and I wanted to take a second to say thanks to our dedicated readers. You guys are totally awesome and I've learned tons from your comments, emails and the discussions we've been able to be a part of in 2007. Here's to more posts, more conversations and more contests in 2008 (Congrats again to Sophia for winning our first ever 4-koma competition!), and meeting more of you cool folks at cons and events this year.


Sophia Foster-Dimino said...

You guys are my heroes. Happy new year!

Anonymous said...

How can anyone write a "MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2008" list, and not include Asterios Polyp? Fucking David Mazzucchelli has written a new graphic novel that he's been working on for ten years!

Cal said...

I'm in the process of nabbing every single volume of Dungeon I can get my paws on. It's got everything I could want in a comic, really.

Re: tops of 2007, did you guys read "I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks"? They have got to be the most batshit, vengeful comics I've ever read. Worth a look!

Ryan S said...

awwww, thanks :) Happy 2008!

Ryan S said...

oh man, more importanty-- how did i leave Lynda Barry's new book off the LIST!? WHOOOPS

I hear you that Mazzucchelli has done great stuff, but if someone is working on a book/comic/story for 10 years and hasn't gotten it together... doesn't that usually tell us that it's simply not very good and won't ever come together?

Unless that book is Junot Diaz's The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, just sayin'.

Ryan S said...

This is a noble goal. The feeling I got after reading Dungeon was basically, "Okay, thanks for perfecting the comics medium and outdoing every possible storytelling aspiration I might ever want or have in reading a comic."

Sortof like how I felt about a certain kind of movie after seeing Shaun of the Dead, you know?

It probably doesn't have 1/100 the readership it deserves because of volume sprawl confusion, but we can start a traveling church and do the missionary work if you get bored sometime.

Oh, I heard a few things about it, but I never got around to reading the Fletcher Hanks book. After recently starting Kirby's 4th world omnibus, I feel the madness of Mr. Hanks calling out to me! Thanks for the recommendation!

John T said...

Thanks for including It Rhymes with Lust. I thought I was the only person who had discovered this gem.

Chris said...

Happy New Year, Same Hat!

Unknown said...

Not to be a total Morrison nerd, but I actually thought the final collection of Seven Soldiers of Victory was even better than All Star Superman.

Also, I need to return your copy of Oscar Wao, which is indeed excellent.


"If someone is working on a book/comic/story for 10 years and hasn't gotten it together... doesn't that usually tell us that it's simply not very good and won't ever come together?"


bittermelon said...

love the breakdown. some of the stuff on your most anticipated of 2008 list got me excited. can't wait duke it out w/you over the stuff i don't agree on. thanks so much for sharing, and i'm honored to be in there somehow. congrats on the increased readership!

Ryan S said...

@John T : no way, I totally loved it too! IRWL falls into a weird niche between romance comics, EC shocking tales and general crime noir.

And the guys involved are impressive figures in the comics world! It's a fucking shame that BOTH drake and waller died this past year ;_;

Ryan S said...

@chris: Happy 2008 to you! Here's to a year of great comics :B

Ryan S said...

@bittermelon: thanks jenn! we appreciate your patronage (and hope you don't mind me posting a pic of your inner sanctum).

I can wait to share your Shredder with the world, come Springtime!!

Okapi said...

I know I'm late, but happy new year to the creators of my very favourite blog!
And - argh! Now I have tons more books I'm eager to get my hands on (to add the the ones you've already brought to my attention) *loves it really*